Civil Charges To Be Filed Against S&P For Its Exuberant Pre-Crisis Mortgage Ratings

Tyler Durden's picture

Egan-Jones may have been barred from rating sovereigns for 18 months due to missing a comma here or there in its NRSRO application (when everyone knows this was merely retribution for downgrading the US ahead of all the other rating agencies), but now the time has come for that other rating agency which dared to follow in EJ's footsteps and downgrade the US of AmericaAA+ in August 2011 to be punished: Standard & Poors. Moments ago we learned that federal and state prosecutors will five civil charges against S&P for its mortgage bond ratings during the housing crisis.

  • U.S. AND STATE PROSECUTORS PLAN TO FILE CIVIL CHARGES ALLEGING WRONGDOING BY S&P'S RATINGS SERVICES IN ITS RATING OF MORTGAGE BONDS BEFORE THE FINANCIAL CRISIS.

Certainly if S&P is being targeted so will be the Octogenarian of Omaha's pet rating company, Moody's as well, not to mention French Fitch. Or maybe not: after all these were the two raters who sternly refused to downgrade the US when the country boldly penetrated the 100% debt/GDP target barrier, and which at last check has some 105% in debt/GDP with no actual plan of trimming spending. As in ever.

And in these here united banana states, it is only reasonable to expect that such crony, corrupt behavior is not only not punished but solidly rewarded.

From the WSJ:

The Justice Department and state prosecutors intend to file civil charges alleging wrongdoing by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services in its rating of mortgage bonds before the financial crisis erupted in 2008, according to people familiar with the matter.

 

The allegations likely would be made in lawsuits by federal and state officials that are expected to be filed as soon as this week, the people said. The alleged wrongdoing by S&P, a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos., MHP -1.68% centers on allegations related to the model used by S&P to rate mortgage bonds.

 

The likely move by U.S. officials would be the first federal enforcement action against a credit-rating firm for alleged illegal behavior related to the crisis. Several state attorneys general are expected to join the case, making it one of the highest-profile and widest-ranging enforcement crisis-era crackdowns.

 

The expected civil charges against S&P follow the breakdown of long-running settlement talks between the Justice Department and S&P, the people said.

 

Many details of the looming enforcement action couldn't be immediately determined, such as why prosecutors are zeroing in on S&P rather than rivals Moody's Corp. MCO -0.92% and Fitch Ratings, a unit of Fimalac SA FIM.FR +0.13% and Hearst Corp.

 

All three credit-rating firms have faced intense criticism from lawmakers for giving allegedly overly rosy ratings to thousands of subprime-mortgage bonds before the housing market collapsed.

 

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded two years ago that the top credit-rating agencies were "key enablers of the financial meltdown."