Monday, December 19, 2011
Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of chatter from the "big" three rating agencies. Moody's, S & P and Fitch have been making pronouncements about the state of Europe and the US; threatening to downgrade every government in the world. These are the same incompetent people who bear a significant responsibility for the financial meltdown of 2008. 25 years ago these companies were rightly regarded as competent and professional. Their view was regarded as an independent evaluation of the financial aspect of various borrowers and issuers of financial instruments. During the late 1990's and the first decade of this century they changed into companies whose primary concern was making money. They did this by selling their former integrity for cash. The history of the 2008 collapse reveals that the rating agencies, in pursuit of money, rated anything that moved a triple A because Wall Street wanted it that way and would pay handsomely for that rating. Today there seems to be no material change at the companies, they assure us they have changed their business model and this time they know what they are doing, etc. The markets are beginning to devalue the ratings and with good reason. The recent behavior of these companies is nothing more than an attempt to preserve their franchise and not any resurgence of competence or insight. Any investor that trusts or relies on the rating of a security by these companies is asking for trouble. It is like asking Newt Gingrich for marriage advice..