Legal Entity Identifier

When Lehman Brothers failed in September 2008, the financial firms it did business with struggled to assess their total exposure as a result of this historic bankruptcy. At the same time, financial regulators were unclear about the consequences of a Lehman failure, in part because no industrywide standards existed for identifying and linking financial data to the entities or instruments affected by the failure.

The Legal Entity Identifier, or LEI, is a data standard — similar in concept to a bar code on store items — but that instead precisely identifies parties to financial transactions. The Office of Financial Research (OFR) has led the global LEI initiative from a mere concept to a fully operational system.

By identifying the precise legal entity on either side of a transaction, the LEI helps financial companies and their regulators and policymakers trace exposures and connections across the financial system. With LEIs, financial companies can become more efficient at internal reporting, risk management, data collection, and data maintenance. It also eases regulatory reporting burdens by reducing the overlap and duplication tied to using multiple identifiers.

Since the launch of the LEI system in 2014, its use has been mandated in aspects of financial reporting in the United States and abroad, as well as implemented voluntarily. These steps have driven LEI adoption across the globe, with more than 1.9 million LEIs issued to entities in over 225 countries and territories as of August 2021.

However, regulators should universally mandate the use of LEIs to bring efficiencies to reporting entities and highly useful information to the Financial Stability Oversight Council, its members, and other policymakers.

Publications on the LEI