By Scott McCleskey, Complinet
Suppose a law were passed that made driver licenses optional. If you want one, you’d still need to pass exams and pay fees every few years, and you’d be subject to fines for speeding and parking violations. Or you could just say ‘no thanks’, turn in your license, and get back on the road. Of course, no lawmaker would contemplate such a thing. But flawed provisions in the Dodd–Frank Act would do exactly that for the credit ratings agencies, making regulation an optional multimillion dollar expense.
The license in question is designation as a Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (NRSRO). Having this status used to mean something. NRSRO ratings have been written into the financial regulations for a good thirty years, so that the designation was a license to print money. Yet until Congress passed a law regulating them in 2006 (only implemented in late 2007), there were virtually no regulatory requirements imposed on NRSROs and their activities. We all know how that turned out.
OUT FOR BLOOD
The 2006 law imposed requirements, costs and penalties for non-compliance on the NRSROs, but it was still worth the bother to be one because the designation was required in order to do business. But the financial crisis exposed both the flaws in the way the NRSROs conducted their ratings and the widespread damage that their mistakes could cause, and the politicians were out for blood.