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What is a Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)?

A Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) is a 20 digit alpha-numeric code used to uniquely identify a legal entity.


At 1:45am on 15 September 2008 Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time of filing the bankruptcy petition Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc had 209 registered subsidiaries across 21 countries and was party to more than 900,000 derivatives contracts. As the Bank collapsed Regulators and private sector entities were unable to immediately evaluate the degree of market participants’ exposure to Lehman Brothers or to appreciate the interconnectivity of these market participants. Much of Lehman’s resolution complexity was centered on their OTC derivative contracts. The claims process was protracted, as Lehman and its counterparts were uncertain of the identity of the specific Lehman subsidiary against which creditors had claims.


The financial crisis exposed many inherent flaws in the Banking system including the problem of identifying financial entities and their connections. A unique global legal identifier would enable Regulators and organisations to better understand the true nature of risk exposures and corporate interconnectivity. Enter the LEI, the legal entity identifier, as mandated by the G20.


What is the format of the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)?

The international standard for the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) is outlined in "ISO 17442:2012 Financial Services-Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)".

Initially the Financial Stability Board (FSB) agreed that the code should be a unique dumb alphanumeric string and not incorporate any intentional embedded intelligence (such as a country reference) which could lead to the code becoming out of date. However, after discussions with the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) Private Sector Preparatory Group (PSPG), whose purpose is to prepare recommendations on governance and operational issues, the FSB Plenary added some structure to the number by including the Local Operating Unit code.


Legal Entity Identifier Structure

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