U.S.-dollar LIBOR is a benchmark interest rate set by input from a panel of banks. It has been used to set the interest rate in floating rate, adjustable rate or variable rate instruments or loans, in which the interest rate periodically resets (such as every three months or every year) over the life of the instrument or loan. LIBOR was used once in over $200 trillion of financial instruments, ranging from sophisticated financial and investment derivatives to bonds, bank loans and consumer products, like adjustable rate mortgages and student loans.
In recent years, however, U.S.-dollar LIBOR is being phased out in response to concerns that the benchmark was being manipulated. The publication for one-week and two-month U.S.-dollar LIBOR ceased at the end of 2021. The remaining tenors of U.S.-dollar LIBOR are scheduled to cease publication after June 30, 2023.
The end of LIBOR has precipitated the need for an alternative benchmark rate. In March 2022, Congress enacted the Adjustable Interest Rate (LIBOR) Act. This Act provides a process and protections for transitioning to an alternative rate in contracts with terms that do not provide for a clear transition. The Federal Reserve Board adopted a final rule in December 2022 implementing the LIBOR Act and specified benchmarks based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as the replacement rates.
Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing overnight collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities. It is based on observable transactions in the repurchase market. The Alternative Reference Rate Committee (ARRC), an industry-led group in which the SEC and other departments and agencies of the U.S. government participate, recommended SOFR as the LIBOR replacement rate.
What do I Need to Know?
Some investments you own, such as mutual funds, ETFs, closed-end funds, business development companies (BDCs), municipal and corporate bonds, and individual stocks, may either be LIBOR-based financial instruments or have exposure to such instruments.
For instruments that are subject to the LIBOR Act, the replacement rate will be a SOFR-based rate. Other LIBOR-based financial instruments that already provide for a clear transition from LIBOR may have other non-SOFR-designated replacement rates, such as the U.S. prime rate.
Synthetic U.S.-dollar LIBOR. The Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom, LIBOR’s regulator, recently required the continued publishing of “synthetic” U.S.-dollar LIBOR for a period of 15 months after June 30, 2023 for use in certain cases to aid in the transition.
How May I Be Affected?
You may be affected by the transition away from LIBOR if you hold securities, financial instruments or financial products that have exposure to LIBOR.
Municipal, corporate and FHLB bonds. If you are directly invested in a variable or floating rate municipal, corporate or FHLB bond that relies on LIBOR as a component for the periodic variable rate adjustment, then the cessation of LIBOR will have direct implications for you. Review any disclosures provided by the issuer of the bond. You can utilize our EDGAR database to review disclosures by issuers of corporate bonds. For municipal bonds, you may access information at the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website. You can find offering disclosure regarding FHLB bonds on their website. In addition, it may be worthwhile to have a discussion with your broker or investment adviser about your specific exposure and how the LIBOR transition may affect your specific bond holdings.
Individual stocks. Many companies use sophisticated financial and investment instruments and derivatives as a means to manage the company’s financial situation and risk profile. Many of these instruments and derivatives may incorporate a variable interest rate based on LIBOR.
To further understand how a company may be affected by the LIBOR transition, you may review the company’s periodic disclosure in our EDGAR database. Companies that have material risk exposure to the LIBOR transition should discuss such risks in their annual reports on Form 10-K and quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. A search for the term “LIBOR” in the document can be a quick way to find the relevant discussions. The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance has encouraged public companies and asset-backed securities issuers to keep investors informed about the progress toward risk identification and mitigation, and the anticipated impact on the company, if material, and expects disclosures to evolve as companies provide updates to reflect transition efforts and the broader market and regulatory landscape.
Asset-backed securities. Asset-backed securities are securities whose income payments come from a pool of specific debt obligations, such as mortgages, credit card obligations or car loans. Mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae are types of asset-backed securities. New LIBOR-based securities are no longer being issued by these entities, except for certain re-securitizations, which will cease on June 30, 2023. If you invest in asset-backed securities, then you may want to have a conversation with your broker or investment adviser about how the LIBOR transition may affect your specific holdings of asset-backed securities. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also prepared frequently asked questions relating to the LIBOR transition that you may want to review.
Mutual funds and ETFs. Mutual funds and ETFs that you own may have invested in individual stocks, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, bank loans and/or securitizations that have risks related to the LIBOR transition. You along with your broker or investment adviser may want to assess the nature and character of the mutual funds and ETFs you are invested in to determine how much exposure to LIBOR transition risk you have. Certain types of a mutual funds or ETFs may merit closer review, particularly those investing in companies in the real estate, banking, or insurance industries or specific municipal and corporate bonds, including floating rate debt, and bank loans.
You can review a fund’s principal strategies and risk disclosure in its prospectus. The SEC’s Division of Investment Management has encouraged funds affected by the LIBOR transition to provide investors with tailored risk disclosures that specifically describe the impact of the transition on their holdings.
Adjustable rate mortgages. Many adjustable rate mortgages—a mortgage where the interest rate adjusts to the then prevailing market rate after a period of time—are tied to LIBOR as the reference rate. In 2016, there was an estimated $1.2 trillion in residential mortgages with an interest rate based on LIBOR.
If you have an adjustable rate mortgage based on LIBOR, consider consulting with your lender or loan servicer or read the documentation to understand how you may be affected by the LIBOR transition.
Student loans. Similar to adjustable rate mortgages, student loans can have variable rates based on LIBOR. If you have a variable rate student loan, consult with your lender or loan servicer or read the documentation to understand how you may be affected by the LIBOR transition. If you are planning on obtaining a new student loan or refinancing an existing one, consider the LIBOR transition in your decision making.
Other consumer products. Other consumer credit products such as credit cards, auto loans and personal loans and lines of credit can also have variable rates based on LIBOR. You should review the financial products that you hold, particularly those that operate with a variable interest rate, in light of the LIBOR transition.