Bloomberg reports that:
A Federal Reserve-sponsored group that has been working on an alternative is slated Aug. 1 to discuss the timing of the release of the measure. The new rate, which the New York Fed plans to begin publishing daily sometime in the first half of 2018 in cooperation with the Treasury Department's Office of Financial Research, eventually could be the benchmark for pricing some $350 trillion of U.S. derivatives, student loans, home mortgages and many other types of credit.
The meeting of the Alternative Reference Rates Committee follows comments recently by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority that it intends to stop compelling banks to submit London interbank offered rates by the end of 2021, igniting concerns global regulators may have to speed up their implementation timelines for new alternative benchmarks. According to an interim report, ARRC said it considered and rejected plans that call for a “quicker and more disruptive transition” and recognized that its proposed recommendations “could take several years to accomplish.”
I discussed ideal characteristics of a benchmark in my article Reforming LIBOR: Wheatley versus the Alternatives (January 31, 2013), NYU Journal of Law & Business, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2013, available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2209970.
Some key points:
- It is speculated that, “in globally integrated capital markets,” it does not make “sense to have different benchmark borrowing rates for domestic U.S. and international dollar loans.”
- In an increasingly globalized market, control over such a systemically important benchmark by any single government likely would be a source of on-going tension and perhaps would trigger an arms race of sorts in which all of the major financial center nations seek to privilege their domestic benchmark.
- The US working group therefore should be coordinating with counterparts in other countries to develop a global benchmark.
- If a single global rate is desired, even though LIBOR is a U.S. dollar rate, it makes more sense to have the alternative continue to be produced by a London-based government agency or central bank. This is so because it is widely recognized that one of LIBOR’s major advantages was that the London time zone allowed it to straddle the Asian and U.S. markets.
- The benchmark should look to private sector lending, not government rates. The difference between interbank offering rates like LIBOR and potential government substitutes becomes particularly pronounced during periods of economic uncertainty or crisis. In such periods, there is a flight to quality by investors that drives down the rates on presumptively risk free investments like Treasury bills.Conversely, as was the case in the post-Lehman Brothers crisis, banks become less creditworthy and liquidity in the interbank lending market dries up. In such periods, accordingly, benchmarks based on government or central bank funding costs would be especially inappropriate alternatives to one based on interbank offering rates.
- The benchmark should be administered by a private sector body. The Wheatley Review, for example, expressed concern that “public ownership” would reduce the ability of LIBOR to adapt to changing needs of users.The profit motive gives a private actor an incentive to respond to changing conditions in the markets for its product. In contrast, government agencies and state-owned enterprises lack that incentive.