The Search for a New Reference Rate

Ahmed Baig, Boise State University
Drew B. Winters, Rawls College of Business At Texas Tech University


The LIBOR manipulation scandal of 2008 spurred extensive policy debates regarding the importance of market-based reference rates. The alternative reference rates committee (ARRC) eventually identified the secured overnight financing rate (SOFR) to be a suitable replacement to LIBOR. In this study, we question the underlying process behind the choice of SOFR as a replacement for LIBOR. Both academic literature and regulatory bodies fail to identify a consistent definition and criteria of a good reference rate. We fill in this gap in the literature by providing an empirically testable ‘checklist’ to evaluate any potential money market rate to gauge its suitability as a reference rate. We also carry out an empirical evaluation of various money market rates against our criteria and identify the 1-month AA non-financial commercial paper rate as the best available replacement for LIBOR.