Perspectives: Credit Ratings Should Not Be Used/Abused As Bad Crutches (7/26)     Print Email

The recent events in the eurozone have raised questions about the appropriate role of independent credit ratings in the financial system and prompted a flurry of suggestions from European policymakers, from intervening in ratings methodologies to suspending certain sovereign ratings.

The bigger question for the financial system is how ratings are used by regulators and policymakers. Their reliance on ratings in determining regulatory and policy decisions may be encouraging excessive focus on rating agency opinions.

Deven Sharma – president of Standards & Poor’s – explores the right way to use the agencies in a July 25. Financial Times article that you can read here (or here). What is needed, according to Sharma, is a more thoughtful way to reduce what some perceive as the excessive influence of ratings in financial markets and the financial policy process.

He says that rating agencies do not claim to be the sole voice expressing reasoned views about the future. (The Federal Reserve appears to agree as it said on Monday (25 July) that the U.S. government is trying to reduce any undue reliance on credit ratings.)

The head of S&P believes that a better approach is to drop regulatory mandates to use ratings and avoid making ratings the sole criteria for policy decisions. That would reduce their impact on markets and on public policy. And it would free rating firms to compete entirely on quality. Investors, in turn, would have the discretion to choose which are useful and which are not, without being compelled to refer to particular benchmarks by regulatory or policy measures.

Standard & Poor’s is a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Companies – a corporate member of the European Institute.

Perspectives is an occasional forum of The European Institute reflecting member views on topical issues.