January 11, 2010
Speaking of Credit Rating Agencies
Since Scott's post from earlier today brought up the problem of credit rating agencies, I thought I'd mention that Chris Sagers and Thomas James Fitzpatrick IV have posted the following abstract and related article on SSRN.
the past forty years, the simultaneous, symbiotic growth of financial
innovation, disintermediation and deregulation has created an
environment with extremely complex, opaque investment instruments. That
system has now collapsed. At the very center of the crisis are a small
group of shadowy but very powerful private corporations, the so-called
"credit rating organizations" (CROs) such as Moody's and Standard &
Poor's. Their very purpose was predict risks like those that have now
caused systemic collapse. There is currently no significant regulatory
oversight of CROs, notwithstanding the literally de jure regulatory
power they possess and the systemic repercussions of credit ratings.
There also happens to be surprisingly little theoretical justification
for their very existence or for the hope that they would produce
valuable and otherwise unavailable information. Even if there were such
a basis, it so happens that an extensive empirical literature studies
the CROs, and it has failed to find evidence of such value sufficient
to justify the CROs' significant costs.
But the problem inherent in the nature of informational intermediation is basically one of industrial organization, and, as we will explain at length, it seems very thorny. No policy tool currently in force and none of those with any serious political feasibility would come close to dealing with it, and those more abstract proposals that might are both fairly politically implausible and raise serious problems of cost and uncertainty. In short, our purpose is to argue that capital markets currently contain a much more serious institutional flaw than has been recognized.
January 11, 2010 | Permalink