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Debt Raters Avoid Overhaul After Crisis

Publication Date: 
December 08, 2009
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
David Segal

Professor Joseph Grundfest, an expert in corporate governance and securities regulation, is quoted in the New York Times on reforming rules for credit rating agencies:

When the financial crisis began, few players on Wall Street looked more ripe for reform than the Big Three credit rating agencies.

It wasn’t just that Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, played a crucial role in the epochal housing market collapse, affixing their most laudatory grades to billions of dollars worth of bonds that went bad in the subprime crisis.

It was the near universal agreement that potential conflicts were embedded in the ratings model. For years, banks and other issuers have paid rating agencies to appraise securities — a bit like a restaurant paying a critic to review its food, and only if the verdict is highly favorable.

So as Washington rewrites the rules of Wall Street, how is the overhaul of the Big Three coming? It isn’t, finance experts say.

“What you see in these bills are Botox shots,” says Joseph A. Grundfest, a professor of securities law at Stanford Law School. “For a little while, everyone is going to be frozen into a grin, and then the shots are going to wear off.”