ISO publishes LEI standard

ISO publishes LEI standard

The International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) has published a standard for Legal Entity Identifiers, designed to provide unambiguous identification of counterparties engaged in financial transactions.

The new standard, ISO 17442:2012, describes a 20-character alphanumeric code, as well as additional elements for reference data attributes.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) which is overseeing the LEI project, has approved the spec, and set out a timeframe for a global launch in March 2013.

The FSB has opted for a federated system in which national authorities determine the allocation and distribution of identifier codes - a role which had previously been coveted by interbank messaging body Swift.

James Whittle, convenor of ISO/TC 68 working group WG 6, responsible for the LEI standard, explains the benefits of ISO 17442 as follows: "LEIs can be assigned to a legal person or structure that is organised under corporate laws of any jurisdiction. These entities include, but are not limited to, all financial intermediaries, banks and finance companies, all entities listed on an exchange, all entities that trade stock or debt, partnerships and pension funds, all entities under the purview of a financial regulator and their holding companies and supranationals."

The creation of the new global ID is seen as a critical element in removing the systemic risks facing the industry when unwinding outstanding transactions in the event of a major counterparty defualt.

Comments: (1)

Andrew Chilcott
Andrew Chilcott - stpsolutions - London 01 June, 2012, 08:131 like 1 like

The creation of a federated LEI database that is accessible by all will be a welcome result of this initiative. Initially populating such a database will take some time but is quite achievable given that the national bodies may well be able to link this to existing identifiers issued to registered legal entities. But that is the easy bit.

Maintaining the quality of that data in near to real-time poses a huge problem which, if not addressed, will cause the global financial community to believe that they are correctly reporting counterparty risk because it complies with the LEI database, when in fact the risk is incorrectly stated because the underlying data in the federated LEI database is out of date.

As an example, a global bank headquartered in the US agrees to sell off a division of its business with subsidiaries in multiple jurisdictions and some SPV's in exotic locations. Although there will no doubt be a regulatory announcement that the listed global bank has completed the deal, there will be no exact detail of which legal entities are part of the deal. Until all of the changes to legal ownership are registered in the LEI database, every counterparty who deals with with one of the subsidiaries or SPV's will be incorrectly aggregating their counterparty risk to the wrong ultimate holding company.

The financial intermediaries who are responsible for the actual transfer of legal title need to be required to submit a change record to the LEI database. This would need to be in a structured format that be used as an automated update to the LEI database that would then get synchonised globally across the federation.

How do you identify who should have responsibility for these timely updates and do you enforce this?