Are credit rating agencies over-correcting?

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15 October 2011
Anshuman Jaswal
The recent spate of downgrades of sovereign debt and the credit ratings of some of the leading banks in markets around the world, have brought an important issue to the table. There is a genuine worry that the reaction of the US government to the downgrading of its credit rating, as well as criticism of their role in the financial crisis, has put the credit rating agencies (CRAs) on the back foot. As a result of this criticism, CRAs seem to be more likely to downgrade sovereign or bank debt than anytime during or after the global financial crisis. While their assessment has a lot to do with the the poor performance of the global economy and the its refusal to recover from the downturn, we have to consider the possibility that by being too active, CRAs might be further endangering the chances of a genuine economic recovery. It cannot be too good for a country's growth if its debt burden goes on becoming more costly to maintain. Another related issue is the fact that there is little to distinguish between the leading CRAs. This might be a good time to reform the global credit rating system and try and involve a new agency or organization to offer a fresh perspective on the whole situation. Recycling the existing methodologies and view-points might not be the most healthy thing to do for the global economy. Reform or not, we need organizations that are more aware of their responsibility to the financial system (than CRAs were before and during the crisis) and understand how drastic an impact their actions could have on the daily lives of common people around the world.

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