U.S. banking regulators on Monday issued a statement encouraging financial institutions to stop entering into new contracts that use the U.S. dollar London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) as a reference rate.
The announcement comes as the Intercontinental Exchange Benchmark Administration Limited (IBA) reaffirmed it will discuss in early December its intention to “cease the publication of the one week and two month USD LIBOR settings” at the end of 2021 and the remaining USD LIBOR settings on June 30, 2023. The consultation is expected to be closed for feedback by the end of January 2021, but there have been no signs the expiration date will change even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency responded to the IBA announcement with a statement encouraging banks to cease entering into new USD LIBOR contracts “as soon as practicable and in any event by December 31, 2021, in order to facilitate an orderly—and safe and sound—LIBOR transition.”
“New contracts entered into before December 31, 2021 should either utilize a reference rate other than LIBOR or have robust fallback language that includes a clearly defined alternative reference rate after LIBOR’s discontinuation,” the regulators advised.
The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also released a statement supporting the IBA’s effort to provide a clear end date to USD LIBOR. “This will incentivise swift transition, while allowing time to address a significant proportion of the legacy contracts that reference US$ LIBOR,” the FCA said.
Established by the FCA based on submissions from numerous large banks, LIBOR is a daily rate in multiple terms referencing multiple currencies that establishes an average interest rate used by banks as they borrow from one another. After discoveries of manipulation, U.K. authorities ultimately determined they would no longer require banks to provide the reporting necessary to support LIBOR after 2021, suggesting its veracity as a benchmark rate would disappear.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in July 2019 discussed the need for “urgency” on transition in an effort to avoid business and market disruptions when the expiration date comes. The Federal Reserve and Commodity Futures Trading Commission last year also sought to provide assistance while boosting the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as a preferred alternative.
In 2017, the Fed-formed Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) selected SOFR, a measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities, as its preferred alternative to LIBOR. Some major companies—like Fannie May and Freddie Mac, Barclays Bank, Wells Fargo Auto, and Royal Dutch Shell—have begun pegging future contracts to SOFR.
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