Roundtable Urges Federal Bank Regulators to Reestablish CRE Troubled Debt Restructuring Program
The Real Estate Roundtable today requested federal bank regulators to reestablish immediately a troubled debt restructuring (TDR) program for commercial real estate that would give financial institutions increased flexibility to refinance loans with borrowers and lenders. (Roundtable letter to regulators, March 17)
Roundtable Liquidity Concerns
The letter from Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, cites rising interest rates, a steady increase in looming debt maturities, remote work’s negative influence on office space demand, and heightened uncertainty from this week’s bank turmoil as contributing factors that have exerted pressure on liquidity and decreased refinancing options for CRE assets.
DeBoer added, “Regulators have taken significant action four times since 2009 to assist commercial real estate loan modifications during periods of economic instability—and now is the time to take action again. Our request is for immediate action, given increasing credit and liquidity constraints. Time will allow markets still struggling with post pandemic uncertainties to stabilize.”
Minutes from last month’s Fed Open Market Committee meeting confirmed economic pressures on CRE assets. The FOMC minutes state, “In particular, the staff noted that measures of valuations in both residential and commercial property markets remained high, and that the potential for large declines in property prices remained greater than usual.”
The Fed is reviewing tougher capital and liquidity requirements for midsize banks, along with more stringent annual stress tests to assess their ability to weather recessionary pressures. New rules may target mid-sized banks with assets totaling between $100 billion to $250 billion. (Wall Street Journal | Financial Times | Reuters, March 14)
The Fed this week acted to quell turmoil caused by the collapse of three mid-sized banks, including expanding its balance sheet to nearly $300 billion after months of shrinking it through a quantitative easing program. (Axios, March 17)
The Fed announced on Sunday night, March 12, the creation of a new Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP), offering loans of up to one year in length to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and other eligible depository institutions that pledge U.S. Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, and other qualifying assets as collateral. The BTFP is backstopped up to $25 billion from the Exchange Stabilization Fund. (Fed announcement, March 12)
Additionally, a Fed report released yesterday showed a huge outflow of $153 billion in loans at the Fed’s "discount window," a funding resource that helps depository institutions manage their liquidity risks. The previous record for discount window borrowing was $111 billion during the 2008 financial crisis.
DeBoer’s letter to the Agencies also emphasized the lingering effect of the global pandemic on hospitality, senior housing, retail (including the enclosed shopping center market), office and other property sectors.
The ongoing pressure of remote work arrangements has altered the current demand for office space nationwide, created significant concerns about the future of office use, and the cast doubt on the future of American cities that heavily depend on property tax revenue to fund needed community services. (Roundtable letter, March 17)
The wide adoption of remote work may have been a factor in Silicon Valley Bank's collapse, according to the bank’s 2023 annual report filed in February. SVB acknowledged in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it faced "risks from a prolonged work-from-home arrangement as well as our implementation of a broader plan to return to the office." (Fortune, March 16 and Axios, March 17)
The Roundtable’s letter concludes by urging the federal regulators to “take action immediately to provide increased latitude for financing institutions to work constructively with borrowers. Such action will avert what we believe would be an unnecessary crisis.”
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Coalition Urges Treasury to Exempt Unrealized Gains from New Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax
A coalition of trade organizations that includes The Real Estate Roundtable asked the IRS yesterday to issue regulatory guidance clarifying that unrealized gains and losses are not subject to tax under the new corporate alternative minimum tax (CAMT). Enacted under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, CAMT levies a 15% minimum tax on the adjusted financial statement income (book income) of certain large corporate taxpayers. (Coalition letter, March 15)
Starting this year, the CAMT applies to firms with an average of $1 billion or more in profits in any three-year period and to foreign-parented U.S. firms with profits of over $100 million if the aggregated foreign group has over $1 billion in profits. Congress expressly exempted REITs from the tax. (Congressional Research Service, Jan. 19, 2023)
The coalition’s comments respond to a Dec. 27, 2022 IRS Notice (2023-7) that states Treasury may issue future guidance intended “to help avoid substantial unintended adverse consequences” from the interaction of mark-to-market accounting and the CAMT. Congress granted the Treasury Secretary substantial regulatory authority to implement the new tax. (Debevoise & Plimpton, Jan. 3 and Gibson Dunn, Jan. 6)
Coalition Weighs In
The coalition, which includes the American Investment Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others, emphasized in its comments that providing a comprehensive exclusion for unrealized gains and losses that are marked-to-market for book purposes would be consistent with the legislative intent of the CAMT—and Congress’s rejection of prior proposals to tax unrealized gains.
The coalition’s comments note that Treasury’s clarification would help avoid a patchwork of unprincipled and ad hoc rules that leave certain categories of unrealized gains and losses subject to tax. The result could distort investment decisions, create a disincentive for taxpayers to elect fair value accounting, and force taxpayers to sell real estate and other assets or borrow money to pay their taxes.
The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) and its partner organizations will continue to work with federal regulators on the CAMT guidance to prevent the unintended taxation of unrealized real estate gains and losses.
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Climate Risk Reporting
Reports Confirm Challenges in Scope 3 Reporting
Reports released this month show the challenges companies face to quantify indirect “Scope 3” GHG emissions that emanate from an organization’s value chain. These studies support recent remarks from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler that Scope 3 reporting is not “well-developed,” and “adjustments” could be made to the agency’s highly anticipated climate risk reporting rule. (CNBC, March 6 and Roundtable Weekly, March 10)
A report from environmental disclosure platform CDP examined survey responses from more than 18,700 companies. CDP found that a company’s limited influence over emissions in its supply chain, lack of data, and/or low-quality data are the biggest challenges for Scope 3 disclosures.
The most commonly reported Scope 3 emission category (42%) reported by all sectors in was emissions from “business travel,” perhaps the easiest category to calculate. (CDP, Scope 3 Categories by all Sectors)
95% of corporate executives say they are prioritizing ESG reporting more now than before the SEC’s proposed rule.
36% don’t feel their company is staffed appropriately to meet the SEC’s proposed disclosure rule.
60% of respondents said they would need an extra 1-3 years to estimate and report on Scope 3 emissions—after any Scopes 1 and 2 requirements take effect.
61% of respondents believe the SEC rule will cost their companies at least $750K in the first year of compliance.
Separately, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this week commented on a proposed House of Representatives energy package (H.R. 1), which focused on measures impacting fossil fuels, as a "non-starter" for congressional negotiations. (Politico, March 15)