Where the credit rating industry failed

U.S. Capitol Building

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: A good question will be asked at a congressional hearing today: Where were the credit rating agencies to help prevent this mess?
Firms like Moody's and Standard and Poor's were supposed to warn us about bad investments.
The heads of the three biggest ratings companies will be on the hot seat. Marketplace Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: As banks and mortgage lenders bundled their riskiest loans into tradeable securities, the ratings firms gave the investments their highest seal of approval. In some cases, says Vanderbilt professor Hans Stoll, those triple-A ratings were still in place when the value of the securities collapsed.

Hans Stoll: Their success in changing the ratings before the market does is abysmal.

Reform advocates say one reason for the inflated ratings is the issuers of the assets are the ones paying the rating firms.

Joseph Grundfest: It's as though you've got all the restaurant reviewers being paid by the restaurant owners.

Former SEC Commissioner Joseph Grundfest recommends that buyers of the securities do the ratings -- and send the bill to the issuers of the securities.

Grundfest: Then, if there is a problem with the way the ratings come out, the buyers have only themselves to blame.

The SEC will consider new regulations of the credit ratings industry sometime this Fall.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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