FDIC Extends ‘Safe Harbor’ for Transfer of New, Existing ABS Assets

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) on Thursday approved an interim rule providing a “safe harbor” for the transfer of assets related to certain types of asset-backed securities (ABS) from insured depositary institutions. The transitional safe harbor applies to all securitizations issued before March 31, 2010, shielding the assets from seizure by the FDIC in instances where the insured depositary institutions fail. The resolution clears some uncertainty regarding the treatment of transferred assets under pending accountancy rule changes for off-balance sheet securitizations, according to Fitch Ratings. Fitch indicated it can now assign ratings to these assets higher than those placed on the originating entity, thanks to the interim rule. The rule grandfathers existing transactions and those issued before March 31, 2010, if the transactions would be compliant with the existing securitization rule and would qualify as a Generally Acceptable Accounting Principals (GAAP) sale for reporting periods before Nov. 15, 2009, Fitch said. “Fitch believes the Interim Rule effectively addresses a key concern that results from existing transactions losing GAAP sale status following implementation of the new accounting rules,” Fitch said in a statement Thursday. “Prior to today’s clarification, the comfort previously provided by the FDIC — that it would not seek to recover financial assets transferred in connection with a securitization or participation — had been jeopardized by SFAS 166 as one of the preconditions of the Securitization Rule was that the transfer qualify as a sale under GAAP provisions.” The American Securitization Forum (ASF) also issued a statement supporting the securitization rule extension. “ASF welcomes the FDIC Board’s unanimous action this morning to extend application of the FDIC’s securitization rule to provide needed certainty to existing securitizations as well as those issued over the next few months,” ASF said Thursday. “The application of this rule had been cast in doubt by accounting standards changes that will take effect for reporting periods after November 15th, 2009.” ASF adds: “Today’s action by the FDIC Board will resolve this uncertainty and will allow bank securitizations of credit card and auto loans to resume, which in turn will make additional credit available to consumers at a critical time for the American economy.” Write to Diana Golobay.

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