As a result of the financial crisis in 2008, the U.S. and international banking regulators have expressed concern about London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) due to a lack of a deep and liquid market in unsecured intra-bank transactions, reducing the reliability of LIBOR indexes. These regulators have stated that the market needs to transition to an alternative reference rate for floating rate transactions.
On March 5, 2021, LIBOR’s primary regulator, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (“UK FCA”), and the LIBOR administrator, ICE Benchmark Administration (“IBA”) formally announced that all LIBOR tenors will either be discontinued or declared non-representative as of June 30, 2023, with some being discontinued as early as December 31, 2021.
Unless a triggering event occurs requiring conversion to a replacement index, legacy LIBOR loans will continue to be indexed to LIBOR until their first interest reset date after June 30, 2023 pursuant to existing language included in American AgCredit loan documents. After that date, LIBOR indexed loans will transition to an alternative reference rate plus a spread adjustment. After December 31, 2021, American AgCredit will no longer enter into new contracts or renew existing contracts using a LIBOR index as a benchmark interest rate.
U.S. banking regulators (including the Farm Credit Administration) issued supervisory guidance encouraging banks to transition away from using LIBOR for new loans as soon as practicable and in any event by December 31, 2021, and the banking regulators stated the following:
With respect to new financial contracts entered into before December 31, 2021, the regulators instructed banks/associations to either utilize a reference rate other than LIBOR or have robust fallback language in their loan documents that include a clearly defined alternative reference rate after LIBOR’s discontinuation.
With respect to new contracts entered into after December 31, 2021, the regulators instructed banks/associations that they will consider new instruments indexed to LIBOR, as a safety and soundness issue and encouraged institutions to stop entering into new LIBOR based contracts by the end of 2021. The statement did include some exemptions for institutions for hedging and meeting obligations under legacy contracts.
SOFR AS A REPLACEMENT REFERENCE RATE
The Federal Reserve convened the Alternative Reference Rate Committee (“ARRC”), which has recommended the creation of an alternative called the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) as a replacement benchmark rate. SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by Treasury securities and is completely transaction-based. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York began publishing SOFR trading data on April 3, 2018. American AgCredit will offer SOFR based products as of December 2021.
On July 29, 2021, ARRC announced that it is formally recommending CME Group’s forward-looking SOFR term rates (“SOFR Term Rates”) as replacements for LIBOR. This formal recommendation follows the
ARRC’s July 21 announcement of conventions and recommended best practices for the use of the SOFR Term Rates.
In conjunction with this development, the ARRC also released a factsheet outlining key steps leading to this point, SOFR’s strengths, and upcoming milestones. The factsheet provides an overview of why the ARRC believes SOFR is the best replacement for USD LIBOR, because SOFR is:
§ Deep, broad, and diverse enough that it does not dry up in times of market stress
§ Resilient even as markets evolve over time
§ Entirely transaction-based, so it cannot easily be manipulated
WHAT AMERICAN AGCREDIT IS DOING
As members of several industry-wide committees and regulatory advisory committees, American AgCredit and other Farm Credit institutions have been actively monitoring and participating in discussions with industry groups and financial regulators about the transition of LIBOR as a benchmark for floating rate transactions. American AgCredit continues to work with our borrowers to ensure they understand the implications of the index transition and that alternative reference rate products are available for our members. As of December 2021, American AgCredit will offer SOFR based products as an alternative to LIBOR based products.
Over the next 18 months, American AgCredit will be working on individual transition plans with customers who have an existing LIBOR based product.
Please contact your Relationship Manager to discuss the transition from LIBOR to SOFR based products, or alternatively they will contact you.