Thursday, October 23, 2008

Credit Rating Agencies Overhaul: A Way Forward for the US Economy?

Blamed by everyone in the financial world as the instigators of the global credit crunch. Will a credit rating agency reform revive the ailing US economy and possibly the rest of the world?

By: Ringo Bones

As of October 22, 2008, America’s three leading credit rating agencies – namely Moody’s, S&P, Fitch – had their respective CEO s testifying on Capitol Hill on the future stake of the credit rating industry. Credit rating agencies came under fire recently due to their dubiously unsound – and sometimes – illegal practices in order to gain competitive edge on their dealings. While forgetting what their respective companies are there for in the first place – managing financial risks.

As the US Congress’ House Oversight Committee grill the respective CEO s of the three leading credit rating agencies after the state of Connecticut sued them for illegal practices and credit rating abuse. The lawsuit was put forth by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) failed to pursue legal action against the three leading credit rating agencies during the last few years citing lack of resources for the failure to better regulate the credit rating industry.

Various credit rating “sins” scrutinized by the Congressional House Oversight Committee include the practice of notching on rating subprime mortgage backed securities citing the non-competitive nature of such a practice. The quality versus quantity nature of credit ratings – which companies pay on a per-deal approval basis – has come under fire. Especially on how the SEC, investors, the US banking industry and the major players of the global financial system’s perception of such practices as of late. Credit rating agencies are about managing financial risks, not overpaying executives for approving deals. Plus the long-term effects of such dubious practices by the three leading US-based credit rating agencies on accurate financial risk assessment. Will better government regulation of the credit rating industry be the best solution?

Wall Street insiders had been wary about the unsound credit rating practices of Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch in the few years leading up to the global credit crunch. The three leading credit rating agencies dubious practices had colored their credit rating judgement. Some financial insiders even accuse Moody’s of “drinking the Kool Aid” thus endangering millions of dollars circulating in the credit market system.

It’s about time that the US Government reign-in on the excesses and the unsound noncompetitive rating practices of credit rating agencies – especially on notching - because the current financial crisis has banks increasingly de-leveraging – i.e. lending less money to other banks. A practice that could spell financial disaster to our modern credit based economy if allowed to go on for too long. Maybe this overhaul of the credit rating industry will create a thaw on the global credit market to speed up the global economy which as of late is dangerously slowing down into a deep economic recession. For the sake not only of Wall Street but also of Main street as well.


Timur said...

as of March 10, 2009 The US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben "The Bearded One" Bernanke had spoken to the press about the urgent need for a regulatory overhaul of the US financial system - especially of credit rating agencies. Remember back in May 2008 when Standard & Poor's "hastily" lowered the credit rating of Vietnam? I think credit rating agencies' practice of financial alchemy - like investment banking and arcane credit derivatives, where money is made out of thin air - is simply fiscally unsustainable. The world's leading credit rating agencies had been powerless in preventing the spread of the US subprime mortgage crisis to the rest of the globe, and it's only fair that they should be held accountable to the on-going global economic crisis.

Germaine said...

The recent AIG executive bonus debacle has recently made the embattled US economy a target of populist outrage. Especially those arcane financial companies who seem to be making money out of thin air unsustainably. Unregulated credit rating agencies are a clear and present danger to the global economy. iven that Wall Street has a 5 billion dollar and 30 year head start via Capitol Hill lobbying. They are now at a position to dictate their own terms while the US Government is for all intents and purposes powerless against this.

Ariel said...

I do agree that credit rating agencies - especially the "Big Three" like Fitch, Moodys, and Standard & Poor's - are guilty of performing their own financial alchemy in order to enrich themselves. At the expense of our global economy. Given that their credit rating assessments are taken seriously by the financial world, they should have practiced more restraint and responsibility in issuing out triple-A credit ratings to questionable financial firms. Thus instigating the global credit crisis.