Friday, April 23, 2010

Deep knowledge

The FT covers the case against the rating agencies and highlights the fact that there was knowledge within the institution about the reputational risk being taken. The FT suggests that this was profit-motivated, which is certainly part of the story. However, it may also be the case that these dispirit, lower-level voices could not be hear above the jingling of the tills ringing in new business. The challenge of governance is to give more weight to these voices.

he e-mails show signs of the agencies’ knowledge of the impending financial collapse. But in the interests of maintaining market share both S&P and Moody’s felt the need to continue their practices – even though many employees had misgivings.

“Screwing with (the model’s) criteria to ‘get the deal’ is putting the entire S&P franchise at risk – it’s a bad idea,” said one S&P employee. Another S&P employee described the drive for revenue and its effect on the relationship between banks and rating agencies as “a kind of Stockholm syndrome”.

Yet another captures that alleged conflict of interest almost perfectly: “Rating agencies continue to create an even bigger monster – the CDO market,” wrote an S&P staffer. “Let’s hope we are all retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

The agencies also failed to incorporate their growing awareness of fraud in the lending industry into their rating practices, as it was seen as a potential block to revenue.

In January 2007, an S&P analyst rating a Goldman Sachs CDO with subprime loans issued by Fremont Investment and Loan, which had just stopped using 8,000 of its brokers because they were agreeing loans with some of the highest delinquency rates in the country, asked superiors whether to take Fremont’s reputation into account.

No comments: