Update: The discontinuation of LIBOR: issues of substance and procedure for parties and arbitrators

The global financial markets are currently preparing for the phasing out of the London Inter-bank Offered Rate (or LIBOR) and other Inter-bank Offered Rates (or IBORs). LIBOR is the most widely used benchmark interest rate globally, employed in an estimated US$350 trillion worth of financial contracts worldwide. LIBOR may also be used in commercial contracts – for example, in price adjustment mechanisms in share purchase agreements, price escalation clauses or as a reference rate for contractual interest on late payments. LIBOR may also be specified in arbitration clauses as a benchmark rate for interest on the award.

The clock is now ticking towards the deadline of the end of 2021 for the market to be ready but there is concern that many contracts will not be amended voluntarily by that time. Recognising the impact on existing contracts of the transition, the Tough Legacy Taskforce, part of the industry-led Working Group on Sterling Risk-Free Reference Rates, was set up to provide market input regarding the ‘tough legacy’ of products that may prove unable to be converted or amended to include robust fallbacks to address the end of LIBOR. Last month the Tough Legacy Taskforce published its report (the Tough Legacy Paper). As discussed in detail in our blog post here, the Tough Legacy Paper serves to highlight the difficulties in amendment of contracts, and particularly the complex relationship between contracts in different asset classes in many transactions.

Many financial instruments affected by the discontinuation of LIBOR will include arbitration clauses. As discussed below, whilst the substantive disputes arising from the end of LIBOR will be the same whether they are resolved in a court or by an arbitral tribunal, there are some additional considerations particular to the arbitration process which are relevant in the context of LIBOR discontinuation disputes. Further, even when determining a dispute which does not arise from the end of LIBOR, arbitral tribunals may have to grapple with how to award interest where an arbitration clause uses LIBOR as a reference point. Read more in the E-bulletin here.

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DISPUTE RESOLUTION CHOICES FOR BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN A POST-BREXIT WORLD: OPTING FOR ARBITRATION?

Partner Andrew Cannon and Senior Associate Hannah Ambrose have authored an article for Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Financial Law, discussing the suitability of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism for banks and other financial institutions post-Brexit.

The article explores the current uncertainty surrounding the enforcement of English court judgments post-Brexit, whilst comparing and contrasting arbitration as a means of resolving disputes with traditional litigation from the perspective of the banking and finance industry. The article goes on to highlight important considerations that industry players ought to take into account if they are considering arbitration as an alternative means of resolving their disputes.

The full article can be accessed by clicking this link.

This article first appeared in the October issue of Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Financial Law and is reproduced with the agreement of the publishers.

If you have any questions or would like discuss any aspect of this post, please contact Andrew Cannon, Partner, or Hannah Ambrose, Senior Associate, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Andrew Cannon

Andrew Cannon
Partner
+44 20 7466 2852

Hannah Ambrose

Hannah Ambrose
Senior Associate
+44 20 7466 7585

 

The discontinuation of LIBOR and arbitration: issues of substance and procedure for parties and arbitrators

The global financial markets are currently preparing for the phasing out of the London Inter-bank Offered Rate (or LIBOR) and other Inter-bank Offered Rates (or IBORs). LIBOR is the most widely used benchmark interest rate globally, employed in an estimated US$350 trillion worth of financial contracts worldwide. LIBOR may also be used in commercial contracts – for example, in price adjustment mechanisms in share purchase agreements, price escalation clauses or as a reference rate for contractual interest on late payments. LIBOR may also be specified in arbitration clauses as a benchmark rate for interest on the award.

Many financial instruments affected by the discontinuation of LIBOR will include arbitration clauses. As discussed below, whilst the substantive disputes arising from the end of LIBOR will be the same whether they are resolved in a court or by an arbitral tribunal, there are some additional considerations particular to the arbitration process which are relevant in the context of LIBOR discontinuation disputes. Further, even when determining a dispute which does not arise from the end of LIBOR, arbitral tribunals may have to grapple with how to award interest where an arbitration clause uses LIBOR as a reference point. Read more in the E-bulletin here.

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ICC report on financial institutions and international arbitration: a condensed overview of a gradually changing landscape

This autumn, the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR published a report on Financial Institutions and International Arbitration (the "Report"). The Report offers a detailed analysis of the use of international arbitration in specialist sectors of the banking and finance industry, from derivatives and sovereign finance to advisory matters and asset management. The Report is based on interviews with over 50 financial institutions from across the globe, data received from 13 arbitration institutions and a review of relevant awards, internal policies and scholarly writing. Overall, the Report finds that despite a recent gradual shift towards more arbitration in the finance and banking industry, the use of arbitration by financial institutions remains limited. It concludes that this appears to be due to a lack of awareness of the benefits of international arbitration, combined with the traditional view that arbitration does not meet the needs of specialist financial disputes. In order to tackle these two findings, the Report seeks to give specific recommendations on how to tailor arbitration to the needs of the finance industry.

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