The End of LIFO/FIFO Loan Participations between Banks?

Banking & Financial Institutions Law Group

By Banking & Financial Institutions Law Group

Loan participations are invaluable to community and regional banks who want to service their borrowers’ needs beyond its legal lending limits or risk tolerance. Loan participations frequently include “LIFO” (Last-in, First-out) and “FIFO” (First-in, First-out) provisions designed to streamline the lending process, simplify monitoring the legal lending limits, and entice banks to participate in a loan they would not otherwise consider.

LIFO loan participations are effective when the originating bank advances funds to its borrower up to its legal lending limit for that single borrower – subsequently the participating bank purchases that amount of the loan which exceeds the originating bank’s lending limit. For the participating bank’s trouble, or relative bargaining power, the participating bank is repaid its principal before the originating bank. The opposite holds true for FIFO loans. Regardless of the loans LIFO or FIFO status, in the event of default losses are shared between the originating bank and the participating bank on a pro-rata basis.

Effective January 1, 2010, FASB Statement No. 166, Accounting for Transfers of Financial Assets (“FAS 166”) altered what constitutes a transfer of a portion of a financial asset, e.g., a loan participation, to be treated as an actual sale. Per FAS 166, LIFO and FIFO participation loans do not qualify for sale accounting treatment. What this means to bankers is that the originating bank is now obligated to report that portion of the loan “sold” to the participating bank as a loan on its balance sheet. So, rather than account for only what the originating bank has outstanding, less what it sold to the participating bank, the originating bank now must include the aggregate balance of a borrower’s debt, which, in turn, is used to determine compliance with legal lending limits (see generally12 USC § 84; Reg O; RSMo § 362.170; and CSR 140-2.080).

The American Bankers Association has been proactive on this front, authoring a March 3, 2010 letter discussing the regulatory requirements for loan participations effected by FASB Statement No. 166. In its letter to the Federal Reserve and interested parties, the ABA recommends that FAS 166 should not be used to regulate legal lending limits – rather, “[c]ompliance with such limits should apply on the basis of the contractual borrower.”

To be clear, FAS 166 does not apply to loan participations where all cash flows from the entire financial asset are divided proportionately among the participating interest holders in an amount equal to their share of ownership. What is less clear, however, is whether banks must are required to modify accounting methods for loans made pre-2010 but include disbursements post-2009, such as a revolving line of credit.

In sum, until the certain clarifications are made, in order to qualify for sale accounting the originating bank must carefully review its policies and procedures for loan participations, and understand the implications that come with FAS 166.

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