Why does anyone take S&P seriously?

By Roger Martin
August 9, 2011

By Roger Martin
The opinions expressed are his own.

It drives me nuts that anybody treats the Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. government’s credit rating with anything but contempt.  I am, by the way, not saying that the circus in Washington didn’t deserve an immediate smack-down before the real one it will be getting in 15 months.  But it stuns me that people don’t ask themselves just what S&P is and who its credit raters are before actually paying one iota of attention to them.

So who are those S&P raters anyway – the people who actually determine whether the U.S. is AAA or AA+? The only thing that can be known about them is that if they are rating bonds at S&P, they can’t possibly be good at rating bonds.  The bond market is a multi-trillion market that is immensely lucrative.  Bond trading is a great way to make a buck because there are unlimited bucks to be made – if, and only if, you know something useful about whether the bond in question actually has a lower or higher risk inherent in it than level implied in the market’s current pricing.

So if you are any good at all at rating the riskiness of debt instruments, you will not be working for a couple hundred thousand a year at S&P, you will be working for yourself, or for the bond trading desk of an investment bank or a bond hedge fund making tens of millions of dollars per year – or a lot more if you are running the hedge fund.  Only if you are incapable of knowing something useful about the true risk profile of bonds will you take a job rating bonds at S&P. Or alternatively you actually know something useful but have no confidence whatsoever that you know do so you won’t put any personal financial risk behind your opinions.  In either case, the output is clear: because of the position you occupy, you are someone to whom no one should listen.

Some may argue that no, these people are public servants, like teachers or judges, who rate bonds business they think it is a higher calling and even though they could earn tens to thousands more trading bonds than rating them, they stick it out because of their great hearts.

That is a pretty difficult argument to make. S&P is a subsidiary of publicly-traded corporation McGraw-Hill.  S&P is driven to help McGraw-Hill march its quarterly earnings ever forward lest bad things happen to both subsidiary and parent.  This is hardly the environment in which we are likely to find a huge agglomeration of public servants.

And remember the business model of S&P: it makes its money from charging those it rates lots of money to rate them.  Prior to the crash of 2008, it was an awesome business because the use of its product was legislatively driven.  That is to say, most institutional investors have regulatory fiduciary requirements that necessitate the use of credit ratings as part of their daily business.  They may think that S&P really has no useful insights, but they still need to use its ratings.  So this business is pretty much like any business that is given a legislative right to serve – like your local electric or gas utility: it doesn’t need to worry much about being any good because the customer doesn’t have much choice.

This is all theoretical, you might argue.  OK then, let’s go empirical.  What is S&P’s recent track record on understanding and rating debt instruments in the USA?  Answer: disastrously bad.  Three years ago it could not have possibly been more wrong on its ratings of U.S. mortgage debt instruments.  Chimps throwing darts would have been infinitely better than these so-called experts were.

So the question has to be asked again:  Why on earth do we pay any attention whatsoever to S&P’s downgrade of U.S. government debt?  It has a horrible track record and in fact helped enormously to get the U.S. government into the crisis for which it now condemns the handling.  Their raters wouldn’t be rating bonds if they actually were any good at it.  It operates in a protected industry that insulates it from the usual consequences of incompetence.  And its business model is one big conflict of interest.

64 comments

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Roger: Thank you for some simple clarity.

Posted by Binkie | Report as abusive

I agree with the comments above that ratings agency commands no respect. They have gotten things so wrong in the past that they did not even see disastrous events happening until it hit them in the face!! But one cannot also neglete the fact that america is so used to lecturing others that they are behaving like the ratings agency.. they cannot see disastrous events until it hits it in the face.

America has lectured about democracy, but the political parties are so entranched in their political ideology that washington is gridlocked. Are Americans fundamentalist in their views? Surely governments should look after its weaker population without making them dependent. Taxing the rich might not be a bad idea, as how much money does one need? The rich people just buys silly things like bigger planes, boats, houses etc. There is no trickle down economics here. There should be a balance between gov cutbacks called prosperity and tax increases.

America has lectured about letting weak companies fail. Let them fail and be taken over by stronger companies, it said in the asian financial crisis. But what happened in their mortgage and banking crisis? Too big to fail it lectured. So came big bail outs which brought private debts to public debts. If private investors were brave enough to risk their money and entrust it to clever fund managers, who earn millions managing these money a year, if it fails, why should the public be forced to bail them out?

Idealy, gov should be responsible and spend public money wisely and within its means. Wealthy individuals should be given the freedom to make money but should happy to have the profit taxed so that responsible gov can distribute it to weaker members of society so that they can prosper without being dependent on the state. Aaahhh what a wonderful world this would as louis armstrong would have sung.

Posted by ntlc | Report as abusive

I fully agree with Mr Martin, Does these S&P guys have any credibility? Who cares their rating. The credibility of all rating agencies have taken a dent in 2008 financial crises as they are the one who rated sub-prime mortgage securities against which several billions are lent by the banks. SO these rating agencies are only bookish and they have no credibility any more. It only helps the markets to technically correct.

Posted by Muthia | Report as abusive

Of course, everyone take it seriously….

Especially when you learn that all three rating companies belong to one family, which makes it an timeless shell game.

Posted by kommy | Report as abusive

Why on earth do we pay any attention whatsoever to Roger who?

Posted by Banboss | Report as abusive

I don’t think anyone took the S&P rating seriously, except the mass media and politicians. But that Really Big Shoe is not limited just to the US bond market dude. In that circus, people who are fiscally responsible are ganged up on as ‘nutters’. And that show goes on and on and on.

Posted by threeRivers | Report as abusive

Enlightening. Thank you.

Posted by jtkeegan | Report as abusive

[...] markets newsSydney Morning HeraldWas S&P downgrade an act of revenge?msnbc.comReuters Blogs (blog) -BusinessWeek -Kansas City Starall 9,981 news [...]

Didn’t we learn from the Dubya crash that the rating agencies are only in it for the money paid them from those they rate thanks to deregulation of the financial sector?

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

Mr Martin,
Where is your criticism of Moodys and Fitch (the big three along with S&P)? They had AAA ratings of FM & FM just like S&P did before their downgrade days before the fallout. Moodys currently has a negative look of the US as well. What makes Moodys and Fitch any better than S&P? Because nobody else will do it. I’d rather take 50% correct than having monkeys throw darts – at least your chances improve 1 out of 2. You’re just as useless as the liberal US media.

Posted by qwerty19 | Report as abusive

Outrageously funny and true. Thanks for the good write up! Worth a chuckle and some perspective. Good that you prefaced it that they still really have a fiscal mess in Washington. So the takeaway is: the real rating for bonds is whatever discount / premium they are selling for.

Posted by jrg | Report as abusive

Does anyone take this opinion seriously? U.S. should have been downgraded long ago. If we were, we might have taken this deficit and debt seriously. Let’s not blame S&P but deal with the real problem….spending.

Posted by actnow | Report as abusive

Traders use ratings to price bonds. The individual bond risk is almost irrelevant since no one holds anything to maturity anymore.

Remember how Black-Scholes revolutionized option pricing? In a matter of months, all pricing went from divergent to convergent on that one model. It gave traders something to plug and chug with, and so do the ratings.

As an investor you don’t (unfortunately) care about the change in the risk of a bond, you only care about the change in its rating, since that’s what drives price. No one is looking past the rating; which is why the mortgage backed crisis got so big.

Posted by PapaDisco | Report as abusive

If no one cared it wouldn’t be on the front page of every major newspaper.

Posted by jeremycjohnson | Report as abusive

Indeed…

should they be investigated for “insider trading”? I bet something bad will come out.

Should they, before the downgrade make a disclosure like:

“We short today the US with a AA+ but we bought a billion CHF just yesterday”, no biggie we will make 5% in a day or two… :)

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

You can’t have it both ways. You’re loving AAA but anything less the rating agency doesn’t know what they are doing. It doesn’t work that way!

Posted by ajborda | Report as abusive

Finally, a member of the Reuters board steps up to admit what countless commentators on their website have noted. I wish the best thing at this point would be for S&P, and others of their ilk, to be brought before congress and have to sit through some heat. But, looking at how utterly off the hook Blankfein is after undergoing the same, I have no faith in congress’ ability to carry through with any kind of censure or effective remediation.

More importantly, I wish a swathe could be cut through these soulless shells of money-chasers. I suspect the only way forward is to actually get the country to rescind the personhood of the corporate body. That is the only way to effect change, but it’s likelihood is in truth quite small, what with the power of lobbyists over both the US Congress and the Supreme [sic] Court.

Posted by hyperlux | Report as abusive

Wow, what a great article. Thank you. It should be on the front page of every newspaper. )

Posted by DamianPalmares | Report as abusive

They issued a tiny little statement and the global markets tanked to the tune of trillions. So, obviously, many investors take their word very seriously.

Though that is really just an example of human stupidity and our ability to brainlessly stampede like a bunch of dumb animals.

The S&P might be a band of incompetent monkeys, but what does that say about the herds of investors that run wild because of their random jabbering?

in the land of the blind…

Posted by bryanX | Report as abusive

Very nicely written piece: accurate, informative, funny & sad–all at the same time.

Your piece is introduced, on main-page of this web site, by noting how “stunning” it is that (almost) no-one seems to ask who are these guys, S&P: what it is they do, how & why they do it.

Unfortunately, it would be easy to list numerous other, ongoing or recent (& not-so-recent), examples that illustrate human gullibility (a wish that someone, somewhere, actually knows what is happening?). Examples that fit into the same, “stunning,” category.

Posted by NipponYank | Report as abusive

Just wondering, why S&P was taken seriously when they were giving AAA rating all along for many years…

Posted by Amit... | Report as abusive

One more comment, specifically, in answer to the question.

YES, obviously; many people do indeed take S&P seriously. But whether they should, or not, is the focus of your piece.

Posted by NipponYank | Report as abusive

The title as asked is a silly question … of course, the world cared enough to panic in the amount of a couple trillion dollars. The better question would have challenged their credibility.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

@SanPa:

True. It might have been different if major financial institutions/huge investors/etc… questions S&P’s credibility and made it in the headlines.

Posted by EdmundGuevarra | Report as abusive

It all depends on how one looks at it. If S&P have had a precedent, they could as well be believed. For us as a Consumers Federation of Kenya all the way in the third world – we do not understand the hullabaloo about S&P. There is need for much more to be said of about this rating agency.

Posted by Consumers-Kenya | Report as abusive

Markets sell-off was a mix: S&P downgrade, debt discussions until last minute, and people selling into panic or with the idea of re-buying cheaper. We all know economy is weak, but we also know big money makes more money. S&P is just a theater and a business that serves to its interests of course.

Posted by SunshineMoon | Report as abusive

An appropriate question to ask before all the media angst and gnashing of teeth is this: Were it any other sovereign State being evaluated, with a similar history of recent financial turmoil, current economic sluggishness and external debt, how should the ratings agencies rate such a State?

To most onlookers with common-sense, a debtor in such dire financial straits should certainly be viewed as bearing increased risk to creditors, and the ratings should accordingly reflect that risk. The US should be assessed by the same stringent standards applied to all other countries, regardless of its political or financial influence. The S&P went against popular convention and political pressure to defer to common-sense. Its announcement was late, but still laudable. Putting aside ratings agencies’ lapse during the 2009 crisis, the fact that some are choosing to behave more responsibly should actually be commended rather than censured.

There is a problem in the US. Recognize and deal with it.

Posted by ewwl | Report as abusive

If you take it seriously, you already lose all your money with the AAA grading on US subprime mortgage at 2008.

Posted by trueman | Report as abusive

If S&P cant be taken seiously, then the same should apply to Moody’s and Fitch’s ratings as well. They too failed in a similar way to S&P.

It sounds as if the rating agencies are working well if they provide the ratings people want to hear, as soon as they make ratings that are NOT liked the agencies are are suddenly incompetent.

Posted by vard3 | Report as abusive

Nicely put, but i have to wonder…Why this sensitivity shows up only now?
Over the last year these same rating agencies have gone on a downgrades rampage of many countries in Europe aggravating to an extent their already bad fiscal conditions. Despite the slamming of the rating agencies practices by EU leaders, I haven’t noticed much sympathy from across the Atlantic.
Without remotely trying to equate the fiscal conditions in the US with those of problematic countries in Europe or elsewhere, were S&P et al. right then but wrong now?
When you raise a beast and let it free, enjoying the view/benefits of its rampage, you should be aware that it may turn back to bite you.

Posted by AlexOn | Report as abusive

I despise the way you look down upon he honest analysts and professionals at Standard&Poors who have other preferences in life besides making money. As an academician your preferences in life probably differs than those who make millions managing a fund too. And by all means my crosschck in this respect would be PIMCO. I would first try to understand why they decided to dump US treasuries a while back.

Posted by foresighted | Report as abusive

actnow,

What debt problem? There is no debt problem; this “problem” was created by republicans who are trying to win an election in 2012. They have nothing else to say, so they create this “problem.”

Posted by sweettea | Report as abusive

I tought that rating agencies were very slow in doing the downgrade.The United states cannot keep on borowing for much longer.Why don’t rich companies step up to the plate and help this country with its empoyment,instead of boasting how small their payroll are.Social discontent will lead to unrest and revolution in the end–See Germany in the 1930s.Give people work! hans

Posted by Hans-G | Report as abusive

I certainly don’t take them seriously but my opinion doesn’t make much difference.

Still, since they admitted to a 2 trillion dollar mistake (wtf?) and STILL downgraded…I think an investigation is in order. It reeks of politically-motivated monkey business.

Posted by Guildenstern | Report as abusive

This author is stubbornly biased on this view as well as his other views. Please think a bit deeper and you will know what they are doing is the correct one. Do not mock those well educated researchers in that organization.

Posted by vze | Report as abusive

US Market is very diverse, Downgrading USA base in government bond alone is not reasonable.

Posted by lliamydale | Report as abusive

Thanks Roger, great article

Posted by Blake7 | Report as abusive

This is so comical. Mr. Martin clearly has no idea what he is talking about and is, according to his bio, an academic. Why don’t you follow your logic and become a bond trader and make millions yourself instead of making only thousands as an academic, since you are so smart. Before you begin critiquing others about their jobs, try to have an understanding of what they actually do.

Posted by Kurtosis | Report as abusive

A standard and very clichéd set of responses have been issued by the US administration and financial ‘experts’.

Firstly, collectively denounce S&P for their work. Bombard the media with the fact that it was the rating agencies (including S&P) which had given AAA rating to most of the mortgage backed securities, which lead to the financial crisis in first place. Yes – this fact is irrefutable. The rating agencies should have been taken to task for a catastrophic lack of judgment on their part while assigning AAA rating to toxic papers. But the US government and various watchdogs including SEC laid low. To my knowledge not even a single investigation has been launched against the role of the rating agencies in the financial crisis. Why? And, if the rating agencies committed a grave error in 2008, does that disqualify them to make a better judgment now? If it does, then why allow them to continue to rate?

The second predictable response has been to degrade S&P v/s the other rating agencies – Moody’s and Fitch. Portray a notion that S&P’s rating doesn’t hold much value compared to venerable Moody’s and Fitch. So it really doesn’t matter if S&P has downgraded because Moody’s and Fitch still have maintained AAA rating. Again an extremely amateurish response from an economic superpower.

Finally as the last straw – carpet bomb the media with the fact that a rating actually doesn’t matter. So AAA or AA+ or anything else – it’s just a number. Illustrate this with the Japanese example. Highlight that fact that even after being downgraded, the cost of borrowing in Japan has not gone up, in fact has gone down to almost 1%! Have Warren Buffet give the sound bite that he would assign AAAA to US instead of a mere AAA!

Hypocrisy at it’s best!

Posted by PLC | Report as abusive

It really doesn’t have anything to do with competence or incompetence. They are manipulating the markets to benefit themselves and Wall Street. That’s the only explanation for their ratings of the sub-primes. I’m sure the same thing is happening now. The ratings agencies have reached a position of power and are using it to perpetuate that power.

Posted by lhathaway | Report as abusive

I don’t take ANY of the financial industry seriously. It is all just a house of cards that is about to fall.
Why haven’t the other rating agencies downgraded the U.S.? It only takes 8th grade math to see that our grandchildren can’t even pay back what we’ve promised ourselves.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

These are the same well-educated researchers that rated the “higher” sub-prime tranches as investment grade right?

Posted by Cybs | Report as abusive

Yup. Let’s discuss the mediocrity that is S&P instead of the mediocrity that is American fiscal policy – and the incompetents that fill Congress.

Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive

There are institutional investors that can only invest in bonds with certain ratings. The rating agencies are the ones that provide these ratings. However, the rating agencies are typically paid by those they rate, creating conflicts of interest (think Enron and CDOs of mortgage-backed securities).

Posted by yoda911 | Report as abusive

Does anyone take Roger Martin seriously?

The guy is on the board of directors of Research in Motion no?

How far % down is RIM stock this year?

Posted by ricky123 | Report as abusive

How is that countries in the EuroZone, such as Germany and France, enjoy AAA ratings, but they are not in control of their currency? Am I missing something here? Do France and Germany print their own euros the same way the U.S. Treasury prints dollars? Isn’t this the root of the problem we see in Greece? They can’t devalue their currency because they aren’t in charge of printing or managing it.

Another point. Shouldn’t the EuroZone nations be viewed as a single financial entity? S&P give Germany a AAA rating, but shouldn’t the problems in Greece and Italy be factored into the calculus? Wouldn’t that drag Germany’s rating down?

This whole ratings game is beginning to strike me as nonsensical and made up from whole cloth.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

Mr. Martin writes; “because of the position you occupy, you are someone to whom no one should listen.”

What does that imply about who should listen to Mr. Martin about the bond market?

After all, he is neither working for himself, “or for the bond trading desk of an investment bank or a bond hedge fund making tens of millions of dollars per year – or a lot more if you are running the hedge fund.”

Posted by Rikyu | Report as abusive

Since the downgrade, my retirement account has been reduced in value by over 10%. Serious enough?

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

hmmmmm… For all those people who agree with roger martin. For argument purposes, please explain to me why the US deserves AAA credit rating.

Posted by strader1000 | Report as abusive

How are bond traders good at rating bonds? All it takes to be a bond trader is 3 years of experience in sales in a car dealership. The great majority of bond traders don’t make nearly millions of dollars every year. I’m not saying S&P is somehow more sophisticated with it’s risk assessment models but this whole belief that wall street is somehow a sacred place with infinite expertise in anything financially related is non sense. At least S&P and Moody’s survived the crisis for which they were part of the cause, Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns and various other one of their peers on Wall Street and the great majority of the bond trading hedge funds that specialized in trading mortgage-backed securities did not.

Posted by OopsieS | Report as abusive

Martin lays himself wide open when he plays the man instead of the ball. Let us all ignore the fact that the USA does not deserve a AAA rating given the reality that the GFC has its origins in that country. Let us consider the possibilty that having screwed up spectacularly in the past that S&P are now doing the right thing.

Much more importantly let us all consider the level of economic and financial knowledge that the Business Schools in the USA have been feeding into the minds of those people who are undoubtedly to blame for the mess that we now see all around us. Academics are the ultimate know it alls but they never seem to consider that the graduates of their much vaunted schools were and are ill equipped to deal with the disaster engulfing us

Posted by akleinschmidt | Report as abusive

I’m wondering if those who comprehend risk rely on the S&P “ratings” to make bets against things like mortgages, etc. Seems to me that S&P serves them quite well – they fully understand there is a lot of money to be made between what they know and what the rating agencies tell you and me. Too bad they aren’t taxed adequately for their gains.

Posted by CatOp | Report as abusive

[...] Hill restaurant … Doc Rivers bought a nice penthouse … hey Jeremy Irons, STFU … why does anyone take the SP seriously? [...]

This rant is really derogatory towards employees of S&P and shows a lack of knowledge of the basic underpinnings of how efficient capital markets work. These rating agencies are essential for informing investors who are in turn better equipped to make their own assumptions about the price of an asset. These agencies simply run models based on multiple factors (integrative models if you will) to come up with a rating. To assume that if you are “any good at all at rating the riskiness of debt” you would be out on your own making tens of millions shows complete ignorance towards the world of finance and business at large. This is a dean of a business school? I guess I’d say if you were any good at understanding how business works you’d be making tens of millions or more running a business instead of teaching MBA students. (Or is that a horrible argument?)

Posted by Rotman10 | Report as abusive

Roger Martin:

Congratulations! In your attempt to garner publicity for yourself and the Rotman School of Business and slam S&P, you have actually discredited yourself. While S&P has no doubt made mistakes in the past, by arguing they are sub standard analyst because they don’t make millions of dollars or work at a hedge fund is a poor argument to make. Furthermore, they were not the only ones that were the cause of the financial crisis. Is this the kind of rationale or train of thought you and your professors teach at Rotman now? If you are so smart and are such a great leader, perhaps you shouldn’t be hiding at U of T and should get a real job as a CEO of a major corporation making tens of millions of dollars yourself. The last time I checked the Public Sector Salary Disclosure list (http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/publication s/salarydisclosure/2010/univer10b.html), you only made $388,335. Even with your side businesses, this is not even close to what a “real” leader in the corporate market place would make.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

@ Strader “hmmmmm… For all those people who agree with roger martin. For argument purposes, please explain to me why the US deserves AAA credit rating.”

Because as sad as the global financial situation is, the US is still probably the safest bet. We haven’t raised taxes to levels in other countries yet, which we could if it really came down to it. And we haven’t cut all the spending. Again, which we could if we really wanted to. People wouldn’t be happy, but an unhappy poor American is a hell of a lot richer than most people in this world. Don’t come after me, I’m speaking in an average sense. I know that there is a lot of money in Europe and a lot of money is being made in China but all in all, the average US citizen is pretty well off and educated.

In addition, we still are the reserve currency and will be for the time being. You can’t look to China, unless they were completely honest with their financial situation, but for all we know it could be smoke and mirrors. They keep their currency pegged to us by buying treasuries, and keep their currency low, so who else is there you can trust? The debt ceiling debacle, because they waited till the day of to pass it, probably pushed it over the edge. If they would have just passed it like it has been numerous times with no BS like they pulled this time, we probably wouldn’t have been downgraded. Yes there are long term problems that need to be addressed, but we also need to get this country growing economically again.

I think the markets already understand this and have for a long time, otherwise there would have been a flight from treasuries before they were downgraded and certainly afterward. However, it’s the complete opposite. They know they will be paid and they know that we will eventually turn it back around.

Posted by DamianPalmares | Report as abusive

Seems like an ample supply of hubris is available, both at S&P and Reuters.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

Your article shows little insight for a Canadian. Do you remember how your homeland handled its poor rating a few years ago? Don’t you agree that the USA has a rising debt
burden and with Obama the debt is going to get worse because of his plans to tax middle class, etc.? I would like your reaction to Stephen Harpers comments about the new US AA rating as well.
Thanks for your opinion on this issue but you should not short change it just because you don’t like the messenger….

Posted by RichardMac | Report as abusive

Sure, when it is time to downgrade Spain then S&P is a valuable tool.

But when it is time to downgrade the US it is a questionable and basically worthless thing.

It is exactly this kind of attitude which ultimately led to that very same downgrade.

Posted by galonga | Report as abusive

So the banks are at it again. Who is shocked? What is it that an accountant does? Watch the bottom line at all costs.
When your accountant says you are spending more than you earn-do you
a) Stop spending
b) Get another job
c) Do nothing
d) Get another accountant
Call it an oversimplification but maybe that is what is needed in this global economic mess.

Posted by ex-fungi | Report as abusive

Dean Martin,

This is a great blog and very well articulated. I must say though, the acrimonious tone of this blog is vastly different from what we are used to; however, I suppose the attitude shown is consistent with that shown in your enlightening book “Fixing the Game”. That being said, I do think your points are valid, but they certainly could have been articulated with less antagonism, while maintaining the key elements of your opinion.

A couple of thoughts:
1) @ Rotman 10: How can you stand by your comment that rating agencies “are essential for informing investors”. I think it behooves a prudent investor to critical assess past performance of the rating agency before relying on the information they provide. We all know they were behind the proverbial eight ball in 2008 in their over-zelous ratings

The (in)famous Hedge Fund Manager Bill Ackman even said in the documentary “Inside Job”, that ” Moody’s and S&P get compensated based on putting out ratings
reports. And the more structured securities they gave a AAA rating to, the higher their earnings were gonna be for the quarter”. In fact, Moody’s “quadrupled its profits from 200-2007″, primarily around rating more structure securities AAA. Even
Jerome Fons, past Managing Director of Moody’s has stated that “the rating agencies could have stopped the party, and said: We’re sorry – you know – we’re gonna tighten our standards. This is – a-, and, and immediately cut off a lot of the flow of funding to risky borrowers”.

How can you call a rating agency credible when they are driven by ulterior motives. From 2002-2007, AAA rated securities exploded. When placed in front of Congress in 2008, Deven Sharma, Stephen Joynt and Raymond McDaniel’s have clearly expressed that the ratings are only their opinions, and that they shouldn’t be relied on. What about during the tech bubble? Infospace, Excite, and other eventual failures were given AAA ratings. How can you really place confidence and call them credible when they are driven by ulterior motives? And the rating agencies certainly cannot be associated with discussions around market efficiency…. sorry

2) @Anonymous who believes being a dean of a leading business school in Canada and ranked as one of the top finance MBA programs globally (source: In the 2008 Financial Times rankings of MBA programs, Rotman ranked 1st in Canada, 20th in North America, and 40th in the world. In the “Best in Finance” category, Rotman placed in the top 10 worldwide (6th) alongside NYU Stern, Chicago GSB, MIT Sloan, Harvard GSB and Wharton) is not credible enough, then is it not sufficient that:

1) In 2009, Roger Martin was named one of the top 50 management thinkers in the world by The Times of London.

2) In 2007 he was named a Business Week ‘B-School All-Star’ for being one of the 10 most influential business professors in the world.

3) He serves on the Boards of Thomson Reuters Corporation and Research in Motion and is chair of Tennis Canada

4) Oh btw @Rotman10, wasn’t Roger Martin director and co-head of Monitor Group and founded the Canadian office before he became Dean?

I think he has proven himself credible enough.

Anyways, I’m not here to defend Dean Martin, I’m simply showing that your arguments are bit unfounded and to an extent, asinine.

Posted by northof60proud | Report as abusive

Martin is spot on on his analysis.
If you are an S&P employee and feel slighted, suck it up.(Or get a new job). You work with the corrupt banksters. While I applaud your downgrade of America’s credit rating I also know you are controlled by the banksters who have one goal: bankrupt the world, and go from one country to another picking off cheapened assets starting with Greece.

It won’t happen here in America however, the people will be on the streets soon enough here, everyone is sensing this, even Buffet is going out of his way to request increases in taxes on himself that the paid for Congress schiesters refuse to allow do(Buffet is not the only billionaire in the group, how about the billion dollar corporations paying little to no taxes in the US?). While Buffet’s motive is self serving i.e. self preservation(he knows what is coming), I applaud him for his honesty and integrity. Unfortunately the banksters who are the true masters of Congress will try to ram cuts and tax increases on the middle class instead. Then you will see people on the street. And hopefully it will be non violent with the targets: the RICH bankers corporations and others who have fleeced the USA.

At any rate, the author is right, S&P is irrelevant, our currency is still the world’s currency, and won’t be affected by this move at least in the short run, long term, we are still going to fail economically as a country, Bernake is running out of tricks, and if and when hyperinflation sets in, the self fulfilling prophecy that we all see forming but hope never happens, WILL happen. Of course the banksters are paid and will swoop in to try to “rescue” us. HAHAHA. You couldn’t have written a better script for the demise of our country!

If you posters that love S&P want to minimize their role in the bankster heist, go ahead, but you making excuses for S&P is like the witness who was kidnapped and saw her loved ones destroyed by S&P now saying that we should believe S&P because they have now “reformed” themselves.
Sorry S&P you have not earned that trust as yet, and you never will. You played a large part in why trillions of dollars are now lost for good because you gave AAA ratings to Wall Street’s riskiest assets and now you want us to believe anything you or your employees say?
My answer to that question is the same answer General Anthony McAuliffe gave to the Nazis when they asked for the 101st surrender during the battle of the Bulge: NUTS!!!

Posted by Independent007 | Report as abusive

pass the NUTS. I’m not MBA material or dean of anything. But on main street, people are talking revolution. It’s never good to try and profit from common folks misery. They not only own guns. They use them. Stirring them up by profiteering on oil market fluctuations, AAA ratings, Chinese manufacturing or any of the multitude of shenanigans you rich power brokers pull-just begs the question. Do you really think we’re going to take it much longer? Someone…someone you may know or we all may know, is going to pay. Obama was right about us hicks clinging to our guns and religion. We aim straight and ask forgiveness later. The latest feel good proposal is drug-testing welfare recipients. That’s gonna cost 30 times the savings, but it feels good to hard working…I mean laid-off middle class. S&P are liars deserving of tar and feathers. My R&D anticipates market upswings in both.

Posted by pHenry | Report as abusive

@northof60proud – that’s wonderful dribble regurgitated from left wing nut authors. The fact of the matter is that very little information out there is completely unbiased. It is the abundance of information available for an investor to make informed decisions based on their analysis of that information that adds to the efficiency of the capital markets.

Next you’re going to tell me that equity research does not support the efficiency of the capital markets becuase price targets are almost never accurate, and the analysts are unbiased because investment banks earn revenue from the companies they cover.

Hate to break it to you but the world ain’t perfect outside of academia. There is very little black and white outside of those textbooks.

Posted by Rotman10 | Report as abusive

If S&P could rate the edo’s for years as aaa as only there opinion. then there opinion should be rated as junk bonds

Posted by lwp | Report as abusive

S&P is once again exerting its influence on world affairs and governments. If S&P were but another business one might interpret their announcements as simple opinion. However, in very real terms, S&P “opinion” affects the social and political direction of entire nations to the extent that the wishes of the citizenry may be rendered irrelevant. So, the real role of S&P (and its ilk) is much more significant than that of a simple purveyor of opinion. Their pronouncements often have profoundly negative impacts on people, flesh and blood people who labour day in and day out without any understanding of the hammer that is hanging over their heads. They are the unwashed, the “human resources”, the future of whom S&P does not consider in its pronouncements. Odd that human resources are valued so much less than capital resources. Please don’t bother with the platitudes about what’s good for capital is good for the people or any of the other associated platitudes. With the rapid decline of the middle class, the rampant growth of homelessness, and the prevalence of the working poor, its hard to imagine what are the successes of capitalism as S&P define it.

Posted by doc_in_bc | Report as abusive