“I Was Just Following Orders”

My last commentary, Playing with Broken Toys in Coronavirus Land, touched on the notion that sometimes following rules can guarantee a bad outcome.  I’ll leave more important musings about ethics and morality aside here (I still don’t have a clue about what Kant was nattering on about) and focus on the more mundane question of whether one should do what a contract says when the contract conflicts with the exercise of good judgment.

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Playing with Broken Toys in Coronavirus Land

I’ve been offline for a bit.  An amalgam of writer’s block caused by the enormity of the Coronavirus mess – what can be said that’s useful – and the consequence of being wildly busy as everyone across financial markets tries to pivot to the new reality.  Unburdened by any knowledge of science, medicine or epidemiology, I have been marinating in the output of such intellectually distinguished journals as The Sun, The Daily Beast, The Onion, The Mirror, The New York Post and Drudge on the daily ups and downs of our plague, its cost in blood and treasure and the disruption it has caused across all aspects of our life.  Consequently, I have opinions but I’ve concluded they’re pretty damn worthless.  We’re in uncharted waters, akin to those bits on a medieval map where the cartographers had no clue and wrote: “Here be Dragons.”

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Crunched Credit’s First Podcast: Beds Without Heads

As part of Dechert’s COVID-19 Coronavirus Business Impact Broadcast Series, the Crunched Credit team has released its first-ever podcast: Beds Without Heads: Hotels in the Era of the Coronavirus. In this episode, Dechert global finance lawyers Krystyna Blakeslee, Jessica Bula and Haleh Rabizadeh expand on their recent Crunched Credit blog and discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, including how travel bans, shelter-in-place orders and other measures have impacted lenders and investors in the sector. To read more, check out our post on the subject.

 

ARRC Recommended Spread Adjustment Announced

The LIBOR transition plods onward.  Last Wednesday, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) announced its recommended spread adjustment methodology for cash products referencing LIBOR.  Regulators around the world have been clear: interim LIBOR replacement deadlines might slip, but LIBOR’s days are still numbered.  At the end of March, which feels like ten thousand years ago, the Financial Conduct Authority said that “[t]he central assumption that firms cannot rely on LIBOR being published after the end of 2021 has not changed and end-2021 should remain the target date for all firms to meet.”  Amid the constant upheaval as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, isn’t it nice to know that some things aren’t changing?

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CECL: The Ugly Pig Running Out of Lipstick

Here is something helpful that has surfaced amidst the fallout, pain and confusion of the global COVID-19 crisis.  The implementation date for the all-too-simple in theory but not-simple-at-all in practice CECL accounting standard has been pushed back by the passage of the CARES Act for banks until the COVID-19 national emergency declared by the president ends or December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.  In addition, an interim final rule released by the FRB, OCC and FDIC on Friday, March 27th, now provides an option to delay the effects of CECL on regulatory capital for two years (in addition to the original three-year transition period for banks required to adopt CECL during their 2020 fiscal year).  Banks opting to use both forms of relief would be subject to a modified transition period which would be reduced by the amount of quarters CECL was delayed due to the CARES Act.  No relief was provided for non-banks who are otherwise required to follow CECL. Continue Reading

Beds without Heads: Hotels in the Era of the Coronavirus

The spread of COVID-19 has created a new reality for the hospitality industry. As of March 25, the CDC reported 54,453 confirmed cases in the U.S., and the number is expected to grow exponentially. In the hopes of slashing infection rates, governments have implemented international travel bans, shelter-in-place orders and other restrictive measures. The second-most popular tourist destination in the world, Spain, has ordered all its hotels and other tourist accommodations to be closed. Continue Reading

Beware of Global Elites Bearing Consensus

Trigger Warning:  If any of you, my readers, or your senior management, who might actually read this, are card carrying members of the global elite, please be assured that I am only talking about other people here. 

This season of election insanity, where only big ideas packaged in often eye rolling tropes have their day (you don’t get elected by saying, “Vote for me and I will make a couple of small annoying things just a little bit better”) got me thinking about where all these big ideas came from.  They come from think tanks, academics, opinion makers and talking heads of all sorts, of course, or, as they would say, the global opinion elite.

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OnPoint: Flood Insurance, Commercial Real Estate and Climate Change

The commercial real estate finance industry is facing substantial challenges due to climate change, particularly with respect to extreme flooding. As flood events continue to occur more frequently and with greater severity across the US, the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—and its administration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and flood zone maps—are coming under greater scrutiny as part of overall assessment of risk and reward in commercial real estate finance and development. How are state and local governments, lenders, insurance companies and industry groups reacting to the inherent weaknesses of flood insurance combined with the greater number of damaging floods that are threatening commercial real estate? To find out, read Flood Insurance, Commercial Real Estate and Climate Change by Jason S. Rozes and Alexandra M. Hill.

Quick Note: The NY Fed is Publishing Compounded SOFR Screen Rates

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced last week that it will be publishing “Average SOFR” for 30, 90 and 180 days on its website starting on March 2, 2020. The confusing thing about this announcement is that the Fed has named these rates the “SOFR Averages” when the rates clearly use the ISDA Compounded SOFR methodology.  The NY Fed will also publish a “SOFR Index” which will allow users to calculate Compounded SOFR for a custom period of time.

The published SOFR Averages are likely to be used by consumer cash products only.  Most commercial cash products will switch from LIBOR to a 1-month or 3-month Compounded SOFR rate (assuming that Term SOFR is not available).  Although it is possible to use the NY Fed’s SOFR Index to calculate 1-month or 3-month Compounded SOFR, it is likely that most market participants will use Compounded SOFR screen rates to be published by Bloomberg starting later this year instead.  One last point—any of these published rates could be used for setting Compounded SOFR “in advance” or “in arrears”.

Life in the Time of Conferences: CREFC, CREF and SFA

With apologies to Mr. Marquez for repurposing the title of his haunting book, it’s conference season here in CRE and ABS securitization-land and therefore a time to reflect (more Marquez) on the risks that the world will become more disorderly, or whether we will progress gently from a perfectly fine 2019 to 2020.  We attended CREFC in Miami, are currently attending MBA CREF in San Diego and SFA in Las Vegas (as mere vendors, we don’t get to go to Beaver Creek, more’s the pity). After having seen thousands of our best friends, we’ll have a pretty good sense of what the market thinks of 2020.  We’ve already published our outlook for the year, but now we test it against the wisdom of the crowd (or perhaps herd is closer to the mark). Continue Reading

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