LIBOR Transition: Drama Continues for BSBY

As Bloomberg and banks like Bank of America in the US and DBS Bank in Singapore continue to push forward with BSBY, IOSCO last month rattled its saber with a statement on credit sensitive rates, highlighting the importance of choosing alternative financial benchmarks that are compliant with the IOSCO Principles. The last volley in the continuing back and forth between regulators and proponents of new credit sensitive rates came in July, when Bloomberg tried to address some of the volume and manipulation concerns raised by SEC Chair Gary Gensler and others with BSBY.

The IOSCO statement counters that with a caution that IOSCO compliance is not a one-time test, and even if trading volumes are sufficient for current volumes of loans in such benchmarks, loan volume should not be permitted to grow if it outpaces increases in underlying trading volumes and are unable to be resilient. BSBY is not mentioned by name, but it has been the primary subject of attention.

Two weeks after IOSCO published its cautionary statement, Gensler spoke at the ARRC’s fifth session of The SOFR Symposium: The Final Year, responding to Bloomberg’s July report that it “could not address the main concern that the rate is built off of too thin a market.” Gensler reiterated that that he did not “believe BSBY is, as FSB urged, ‘especially robust,’” adding that, “I don’t believe it meets IOSCO’s 2013 standards.”

Unless regulators back up their words with actions, this drama is mostly noise, and lenders are free to continue to make BSBY loans. Whether they will be successful will depend in part on whether borrowers perceive BSBY as a better deal. For legacy LIBOR loans, the spread adjustment added to the interest rate to transition to SOFR has been set by market convention—about 11.5 basis points for a 1 month term, 26bps for 3 months and 43bps for 6 months. This adjustment reflects that LIBOR is an unsecured rate that is sensitive to fluctuations in credit risk while SOFR is a secured, relatively stable “risk free” rate. Since BSBY is also based on unsecured transactions, there should not be a need to add much, if any, spread adjustment to transition from LIBOR to BSBY. This lower spread could be attractive to borrowers if they believe that over time, the variable credit sensitivity of BSBY will not cause the rate to rise, relative to SOFR, more than the fixed SOFR spread adjustment.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: Derivatives News from CME Group

CME Group, the Term SOFR administrator, recently made a couple of important announcements. First, its Term SOFR data are now available for licensing for use in cash market financial products and OTC derivative products. Until now CME Group previously limited Term SOFR data to making loans. Their terms of use, which did not allow the data to be used for Term SOFR derivatives, have been updated with details on licensing.

Of equal importance, BSBY futures are live. As a complement to BSBY futures and SOFR-based offerings, CME Group also announced that it will launch Cleared BSBY swaps for both outright OIS and basis swaps beginning November 15, subject to regulatory review.

An active derivatives market is crucial to the development of Term SOFR and BSBY. With the availability of Term SOFR swaps, Term SOFR seems poised to replace LIBOR as the dominant rate in the loan market. As we discussed in our prior Alert, regulators, and SEC chair Gary Gensler in particular, have expressed considerable reservations with BSBY. It will be interesting to see how trading and loan volume in both rates develop.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: The first syndicated SOFR loan is here!

We knew it was coming, but it finally happened.

Ford Motor Co. announced in June their intention to refinance $15.4 billion in syndicated facilities — and at least some of them on SOFR. With all eyes on what would be the first syndicated U.S. corporate loan tied to regulators’ preferred LIBOR replacement, Ford formally launched the deal this month. Bloomberg reported that there are three revolver tranches that Ford is refinancing (with JPMorgan Chase & Co. leading the loan process): a $3.35 billion three-year portion, a $2 billion three-year tranche and a $10.05 billion five-year portion. Ford’s loan is using Simple SOFR, and not Term SOFR endorsed by the ARRC earlier this summer.

This first syndicated loan originated on SOFR has marked a milestone in the transition away from LIBOR. And as the transition gains steam, more SOFR loans are expected to come in the last quarter of the year.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: What’s a Borrower to Do?

So far, much of the focus has been on getting lenders to stop originating LIBOR loans in favor of loans based on alternative, risk-free rates. As we get closer to that becoming a reality on a broad scale, it’s worth taking a look at the issue from a borrower’s perspective. Borrowers have no say in the phaseout of LIBOR, but to varying degrees they will have a say in which alternative rates will become prevalent in the market.

To learn about what a borrower should do in light of the availability of alternative reference rates in the very near future, check out our Alert here.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: Release the CRITR?

It doesn’t sound quite as scary as the mythical monster from Scandinavian folklore, but it’s not intended to be. CRITR is not a complete game changer in LIBOR transition or trying to be one. What is it then?

The Credit Inclusive Term Rate (CRITR) and the spread only Credit Inclusive Term Spread (CRITS) are the latest products of IHS Markit, a $44 billion company that is set to merge with S&P Global later this year. IHS Markit initially developed CRITS to provide the market with an alternative credit sensitive spread over SOFR. When Term SOFR failed to materialize, it developed CRITR as a standalone credit sensitive rate with forward looking tenors similar to LIBOR.

In a crowded field with Ameribor and BSBY in addition to SOFR, and Term SOFR likely coming by the end of July, and regulators expressing concern about rates other than SOFR, and borrowers not too keen on credit sensitive rates, is there room for a new rate option?  Interest rates are a diverse, multi trillion dollar market, and even a small sliver of it can be lucrative if the rates take hold. Is it right for you? We discuss CRITR and CRITS in more detail in our recent Alert.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: News Flash- Borrowers Don’t Like Volatile, Credit Sensitive Rates

So far, much of the emphasis on LIBOR transition has been on lenders. As we all wait for alternative rates to hit the market, the Association for Financial Professionals, the National Association of Corporate Treasurers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined in a letter to voice the concerns that borrowers have about the pace of the roll out to the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the SEC and the CFTC.

This message isn’t surprising, but the letter contained another component that is worth highlighting. When asked if they prefer SOFR or “potential credit sensitive rates that could move up like LIBOR has done in times of economic stress”, roughly 85% of borrowers surveyed chose SOFR. Put that way, it’s surprising that even 15% of borrowers preferred credit sensitive rates.

Is this the death knell for credit sensitive rates like Ameribor and BSBY before they even get off the ground? Should borrowers really pick only SOFR? The answers are not as simple as they may seem. In our recent Alert, we discuss some of the considerations that borrowers, and lenders that are planning in earnest to offer credit sensitive alternative rates, should keep in mind.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: Regulator Comments- LIBOR is Dead, BSBY is in Trouble, and Ameribor Gets a Pass

Top regulators from the SEC, the OCC, the CFTC, the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury spoke in unison at an eventful meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Counsel on June 11, 2021.

Key takeaways:

(1) if you are a regulated bank that is delaying transition in hope that alternatives to SOFR will develop, the OCC is coming for you. The warning was expressed in more cordial terms than that, but no one wants to be unprepared when the OCC comes knocking.

(2) The chair of the SEC, who was also the co-chair of the IOSCO group that wrote the 2013 IOSCO principles by which replacement rate benchmarks are measured, doesn’t believe that Bloomberg’s BSBY rate meets the standard. This bluntly worded statement is at odds with the self-certification by Bloomberg, which was confirmed by an “assurance review” of an unnamed “global, independent accounting firm” in April. Awkward, to say the least.

(3) Although not mentioned by name, Ameribor appeared to get a pass, at least for now. Lenders and borrowers in non-capital markets are free to choose among rates that meet their needs, as long as it’s not BSBY. So are lenders and borrowers in the capital markets, as long as it’s SOFR.

The actual prepared statements are more engaging and provide useful insight. We take a deeper dive in our recent Alert.

 

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

 

LIBOR Transition: Term SOFR Expected “Days” After July 26

June 8, 2021, was an eventful day in the LIBOR transition. That morning, the Interest Rate Benchmark Reform Subcommittee of the Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced its recommendation that starting July 26, 2021, interdealer brokers should replace trading of LIBOR linear swaps with trading of SOFR linear swaps. That same morning, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee of the New York Federal Reserve (ARRC) praised the MRAC recommendation and announced that once the switch occurs, it will be in a position to recommend CME SOFR term rates “very shortly thereafter.” June 8 also happened to be the date of the ARRC’s planned SOFR Symposium. Regulatory speakers at the symposium were confident that the July 26 date for the switch was realistic and achievable. ARRC Chair Tom Wipf clarified that he expects “very shortly thereafter” to mean “days, not weeks.”

It’s a stunning reversal in what otherwise appeared to be a dim future for Term SOFR just a few months ago. Read on our Alert, published today, to learn more about the recent developments relating to Term SOFR and its competing rates.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. Huskins, and Phuong (Michelle) Ngo.

LIBOR Transition: Term SOFR Coming “Soon”

After the ARRC announced a week before the Memorial Day weekend that market participants can plan on a recommendation of CME Group as the administrator of a term SOFR reference rate “soon”,  it is a bit optimistic to expect that we would return from the holiday to a formal announcement on Term SOFR. Nonetheless, it is an encouraging development in what has been a rollercoaster ride on the fate of Term SOFR. In March of this year, it seemed as though Term SOFR might not come until 2022, with some dire predictions that it might not ever truly develop.

Exactly what “plans” market participants should make is still an open question. Based on developments earlier this year and the ARRC’s March announcement, some lenders are well on their way to originating daily SOFR loans even though they may have preferred to use Term SOFR. Term SOFR still is not here yet, and it remains to be seen what limitations regulators and the ARRC may put on it. In that regard, the ARRC’s key principle that Term SOFR should have a “limited scope of use” may cause some lenders to remain cautious. To hear company-side organizations, borrowers are all in favor of SOFR, including Term SOFR, if only they could find lenders willing to make SOFR loans at this point.

Our recent Alert explores some of the practical considerations surrounding the ARRC’s announcement.

 

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. HuskinsPhuong (Michelle) Ngo, and Han Wang.

LIBOR Transition: Hardwired Language Rewired

Last week was quite eventful in the world of LIBOR transition, from the ARRC’s SOFR Symposium, to the passage of LIBOR transition legislation in New York for tough legacy contracts, to the release of supplemental fallback language for syndicated and bilateral loans. The hardwired language has come a long way- the original version was barely used, but the update last summer has achieved broad adoption in new and amended loans. What does the latest iteration have to offer, and is it worth adopting at this point?

Compared to the various versions of amendment approach language that have evolved in the market, the hardwired approach offers parties more certainty as to what the replacement benchmark will look like. The details that remain tend to be more administrative in nature and are hopefully less prone to disputes. That said, the 2020 hardwired language is hardly simple or easy to understand. Many of the details, such as the end date for LIBOR, the availability of SOFR and the spread adjustment, remained unresolved when the language came out. This necessitated drafting in the alternative and using broad descriptive language to cover concepts that would develop in the future.

Fast forward eight months to the March 5, 2020 announcements of the FCA and the IBA, and clarity on those and certain other details is now here. Rather than saying that LIBOR will one day be phased out, the date is fixed. Although Term SOFR is still a question mark, daily simple SOFR is operational now, so there is no need for loan parties to fumble around trying to figure out what the replacement rate should be. The formal announcement of the end of LIBOR also set the market-agreed calculation of the SOFR spread adjustments, which Bloomberg dutifully computed the same day.

All of these are good changes to update in the hardwired language. The question remains whether they are worth adopting at this time. In concept, it is simple enough to update the template forms for new loans. However, it involves more effort, coordination and time than one might expect and introduces yet another variation in the loan portfolio. The backdrop for these changes is that by the end of 2021, and preferably sooner, all lenders should stop originating LIBOR loans, even with updated hardwired language, and only originate SOFR loans. Different lenders are at different stages of readiness for this task, with some ready to make SOFR loans in the coming weeks and months, and others likely to be pushing the New Year’s Eve deadline. It is a monumental task involving many departments at a bank and requires substantial drafting and thought.

To the extent that revising the hardwired language detracts from this effort, a lender might determine that the existing hardwired language is good enough for the remaining LIBOR loans that it will make this year. If a lender is switching to SOFR by mid-year, it may not be so many loans. The ARRC drafted the 2020 language to encompass the SOFR future, however that future might develop. The value of the updated ARRC language is that it takes the recent developments and shows market participants the practical effect those developments have on the SOFR future. This benefit can be obtained whether or not the updated language is actually implemented in any particular loan agreement.

 

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. HuskinsPhuong (Michelle) Ngo, and Han Wang.