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Fitch Publishes Updated U.S. Equipment Lease and Loan Rating Criteria

January 12, 2012, 06:30 AM
Filed Under: Regulatory News

Fitch Ratings today published an updated Asset-Backed sector specific criteria report titled 'Criteria for Rating U.S. Equipment Lease and Loan ABS.' This report updates and replaces the prior criteria report with the same name, dated Jan. 25, 2011. There have been no material changes from the previous version; therefore Fitch expects no impact on existing ratings.
The report presents Fitch's analytical approach to rating U.S. equipment lease/loan asset-backed securities (ABS) and outlines the unique features of these transactions. Additionally, the report details key rating drivers associated with equipment lease/loan ABS as detailed below.
Key Rating Drivers
Obligor Performance Risk: Delinquencies, defaults, net losses, recoveries (if applicable), prepayments, and the associated timing of each are key rating drivers in equipment lease/loan ABS. As such, Fitch analyzes historical managed static pool and prior securitization data when deriving a base case proxy and performance assumptions for use in the stressed loss approach. Fitch expects historical data to be split into homogenous subsets where appropriate.
Fitch may also examine industry data to compare originator performance trends; however, the focus of Fitch's analysis is based on originator-specific data that are generally robust (i.e. minimum five years, detailed, and granular) in nature.
Large obligor concentrations pose a risk, as cash flow could be greatly impacted were the largest obligors to default. As such, Fitch also incorporates an obligor concentration analysis to compare credit enhancement levels relative to obligor concentrations. Ultimately, the approach that yields the more conservative results will be considered the primary rating analysis and will be noted as such in the applicable transaction rating report.
Structural Risks: Structural features and collateral attributes have a significant impact on equipment ABS performance. As such, Fitch uses an internal, proprietary Microsoft Excel-based cash flow model to evaluate transaction structures by stressing the various performance assumptions mentioned above.
Legal Risks: The performance of equipment ABS is largely dependent on a sound legal framework. As such, Fitch reviews the legal structure and the opinions furnished to confirm that cash flow derived from the assets will not be impaired or diminished. This could potentially occur due to the bankruptcy or insolvency of the originator or any other transaction party, the trustee's lack of a first-priority perfected security interest in the assets, or taxation, if legal mitigants are absent.
Counterparty Risks: The performance of equipment ABS can rely heavily on the originator/seller/servicer and other counterparties. Thus, Fitch conducts a review and certain findings of the originator, seller, and servicer may result in qualitative adjustments to assumptions used to generate base case gross default and net loss proxies.

Economic Risks: The economic environment can have a material impact on the performance of U.S. equipment lease/loan ABS. As such, Fitch takes into consideration the strength of the U.S. economy, as well as future expectations. To account for the potentially weak U.S. economy, adjustments may be made to the base case proxy or other assumptions as detailed herein.

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