FASB proposes guidance to ease transition to new benchmark rates

Reference rates are seen as less susceptible to manipulation.

FASB is seeking feedback on a proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU) designed to reduce the accounting costs and complexities related to the migration from interbank-offered interest rates to new reference rates.

The proposed ASU, Reference Rate Reform (Topic 848): Facilitation of the Effects of Reference Rate Reform on Financial Reporting, would establish temporary optional guidance to ease potential burdens related to the accounting for, or recognizing the effects of, reference rate reform on financial reporting.

Stakeholder comments on the exposure draft were due Oct. 7.

The guidance proposal results from a FASB project launched late last year to address potential accounting challenges associated with the expected move of global capital markets away from interbank-offered rates, most notably the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which is the benchmark interest rate banks use to make short-term loans to one another. Interest rates associated with trillions of dollars in loans, derivatives, and other financial contracts are set and adjusted with LIBOR as a benchmark, but there is sentiment among global capital markets to move to more observable or transaction-based rates, which are seen as less susceptible to manipulation.

The proposed guidance would provide optional expedients and exceptions for applying GAAP to contract modifications and hedging relationships affected by reference rate reform, according to a FASB news release.

The ASU, which would be effective upon issuance of final guidance, would apply only to contracts or hedging relationships that reference LIBOR or another reference rate expected to be discontinued due to reference rate reform. Because the guidance is intended for use during the reference rate transition period, it would be temporary and not apply to contract modifications made, and hedging relationships entered into or evaluated, after Dec. 31, 2022.

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