Tester, Tillis Introduce LIBOR ‘Tough Legacy’ Bill; MBA, Trade Groups Urge Senate Support

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., yesterday introduced a bill that addresses “tough legacy” contracts that currently reference LIBOR. The Mortgage Bankers Association and more than two dozen industry trade groups sent a letter to Senate leadership in support of the bill.

The Economic Continuity and Stability Act (which does not yet have a number assigned to it) addresses trillions of dollars in outstanding contracts, securities and loans that use LIBOR for their interest rates but do not have appropriate contractual fallback language to facilitate the transition away from LIBOR when all U.S. dollar tenors cease to be published in June 2023.

The Senate bill mirrors H.R.4616, the Adjustable Interest Rate (LIBOR) Act of 2021, which passed the House in December. That bill, introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., allows language in contracts to be amended or modified so that they have equal treatment once LIBOR is no longer published in June 2023.

The joint trades letter notes these particular contracts are extremely difficult to amend and are known as “tough legacy.”

“Without federal legislation to address these contracts, the letter cautioned, investors, consumers and issuers of securities could face years of uncertainty, litigation and a change in value, creating ambiguity that would lead to a reduction in liquidity and an increase in volatility,” the letter said.

The letter said the legislation provides a solution for these “tough legacy” contracts that have insufficient fallback language and cannot otherwise be easily amended among the parties. The legislation is narrowly crafted to allow parties to contracts that already have effective fallback provisions to opt-out of the legislation, and to only apply to tough legacy contracts so that new or future business will not be affected, while clarifying regulatory standards for the use of alternative reference rates going forward. In addition, the legislation offers uniform, equitable treatment for all U.S. contracts that fall under the federal legislation. The bill also creates a safe harbor from litigation for parties that are covered by the legislation and prevents otherwise inevitable litigation costs and gridlock.

“Industry participants, including consumer groups, investors, banks and issuers have all expressed the need for uniform federal legislation and urged swift congressional action,” the letter said.

Joining MBA in the letter:

Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association

Structured Finance Association

Bank Policy Institute

Commercial Real Estate Finance Council

Institute for Portfolio Alternatives

Government Finance Officers Association

Student Loan Servicing Alliance

The Real Estate Roundtable

Education Finance Council

The Financial Services Forum

The Loan Syndications and Trading Association

Institute of International Bankers

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association

Independent Community Bankers of America

National Association of Corporate Treasurers

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness

Consumer Bankers Association

Housing Policy Council

Investment Company Institute

American Bankers Association

The American Council of Life Insurers

Mid-Size Bank Coalition of America