New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether eight Wall Street banks misled rating agencies in the latest of a string of federal inquiries into the practices of leading financial institutions.
The attorney general will pursue the inquiry by first exploring how the credit agencies earned money. Agencies were paid by the banks to grade their securities. The investigation will also delve into the relationship between the banks and the rating companies. Dean Baker with the Center for Economic and Policy Research says banks were prone to hiring employees from big-name rating agencies. "The banks could pay someone much more than Standard & Poor's or Moody's would pay them," he said. Baker noted there should be a cooling-off period before a rating agency worker can go to work for a bank.
Although likely to be a prominent case, this investigation isn't directly connected to the SEC's recent civil charges against Goldman Sachs. Criminal accusations continue against banks like JP Morgan, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank for betting against mortgages sold to customers.