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    EU Endorses Rules Addressing Cessation of Financial Benchmarks

    December 09, 2020

    European Council and Parliament reached an agreement on amending the Benchmark Regulation, which was also welcomed by EC. The agreed amendments are of key importance to avoid any systemic risks that might result from the phasing out of LIBOR by the end of 2021. The agreed amendments, proposed by EC in July 2020, to the Benchmark Regulation empower EC to designate a replacement benchmark that covers all references to a widely used reference rate that is phased out, such as LIBOR, when this is necessary to avoid disruption of the financial markets in EU. The European Parliament and the Council also agreed to postpone the entry into application of the rules on third-country benchmarks until December 31, 2023, with the possibility of an extension by EC afterward. The agreed amendments will apply immediately after their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

    The amendments to the Benchmark Regulation aim to ensure that a statutory replacement benchmark can be established by the regulators by the time a systemically important benchmark is no longer in use and, thus, protect financial stability on EU markets. The new rules give EC the power to replace "critical benchmarks," which could affect the stability of financial markets in Europe, and other relevant benchmarks, if their termination would result in a significant disruption in the functioning of financial markets in  EU. The agreement on the proposed changes is very timely, as the UK FCA, the supervisor of LIBOR, announced that it will stop supporting this benchmark at the end of 2021 and expects its cessation shortly thereafter. As per the new rules, EC will be able to replace third-country benchmarks if their cessation would result in a significant disruption in the functioning of financial markets or if they pose a systemic risk for the financial system in EU. Thus, a statutory benchmark will replace the benchmarks in financial instruments and contracts that contain either no contractual replacement or a fallback provision that is deemed unsuitable by regulators. In the amended rules, a framework is also provided for the replacement of a benchmark through national legislation.

    The European Council and the Parliament have extended the transition period to ensure a smooth transition to the new rules for the use of third-country benchmarks. The EU supervised entities will be able to use such benchmarks until the end of 2023. EC may further extend this period until the end of 2025 in a delegated act to be adopted by June 15, 2023, if it is deemed necessary in a report that is to be presented by that time. The EC report will also assess whether the legislation concerning the use of third-country benchmarks by EU supervised entities needs to be amended; the report will be accompanied by a legislative proposal, as appropriate. The Parliament and the Council will adopt the amendments without further discussion as soon as possible.

     

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    Keywords: Europe, EU, Banking, Securities, LIBOR, Interest Rate Benchmarks, Benchmarks Regulation, Benchmark Reforms, Systemic Risk, European Council, European Parliament, EC

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