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Challenges, Wide-Ranging Effects Seen for LIBOR Phase-Out

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton was among several speakers at a recent eventfocused on reference rate reform, including what the phasing out of LIBOR from the global financial system means for companies and consumers. LIBOR, a common benchmark for a variety of interest rates, is slated to be replaced in 2021 even as it rises to levels not seen since 2008, according to the Wall Street JournalPoliticoreported that the transition from LIBOR has been challenging, noting that financial institutions have yet to gain comfort with a possible replacement rate and a lack of solutions on how to handle existing contracts that reference LIBOR. The rate’s viability has been questioned since the financial crisis and manipulation scandals, according to media reports.  A public-private sector working group has launched the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) to replace LIBOR, and the Wall Street Journalreported that the FASB  recently expanded the list of U.S. benchmark interest rates permitted for the application of hedge accounting and included an index swap rate based on the SOFR. Yet, according to experts quoted in the Politico report, it is unclear that LIBOR will ultimately disappear by 2021.