Mike the Mad Biologist

So Is Standard & Poor’s Still Rating Cows?

One of the most frustrating things about the Standard and Poor’s (S&P) U.S. debt downgrade is that S&P is part of the problem, as I’ve described before. They really aren’t studious evaluators of evidence, untouched by the profit motive or ideology. They are venal hacks, as Matt Stoller reminds us of what came to light about S&P in 2008 during the aftermath of Big Shitpile (aka the housing crisis and other fun stuff):

Indeed, of all the players in the financial crisis, the ratings agencies were the single most embarrassing and obvious points of failure and corruption. Why did all the toxic crap get AAA ratings? Because S&P, Moody’s, etc. basically got paid for each AAA rating. Were these companies actually apologetic after blowing up the economy? Ha! Here’s testimony to the House Financial Services Committee in 2009 by S&P President Deven Sharma.

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee let me assure you of two things. First, our ratings in the mortgage-backed securities area were not venal. These were honest views expressed based on the best information available, dealing with complex instruments.

Erm, about the venality thing:

This conversation by two S&P analysts was released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2008.

Rahul Dilip Shah: btw: that deal is ridiculous
Shannon Mooney: I know right … model def does not capture half of the risk
Rahul Dilip Shah: we should not be rating it
Shannon Mooney: we rate every deal… it could be structured by cows and we would rate it

This stuff came out in 2008. In 2009, S&P’s President got up in front of a Congressional committee and said that her company’s ratings were honest and not venal. And nothing happened! S&P still keeps going as if they are a credible institution!

MOOOO!!!!

Seriously, this is why all of that ‘looking forward, not back‘ crapola is so toxic. These jokers shouldn’t be taken seriously. Yet, by not finishing them off when we had the chance, they not only have survived, but are stronger for it. At this point, how could they possibly know any fear? They have been exposed as incompetent and dishonest…yet we still must take their pronouncements seriously.

Comments

  1. #1 Lynxreign
    August 13, 2011

    You’d think the US Bond market sending yeilds through the floor after their downgrade would show everyone their ratings have no basis in reality.

  2. #2 Roman
    August 14, 2011

    Yields are going down because investors have little hope of getting better returns elsewhere.

    I would rather look at the CDS spreads, where France (AAA) has 3x the spread of USA (AA+). Interesting.

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    August 15, 2011

    There is also the history of S&P’s credit ratings on various Eurozone countries. Nate Silver had a column last week reviewing that history. Short version: A reasonable observer might conclude that S&P learned of the high risk of default by Greece et al. by reading the newspaper. An investor in Eurozone bonds who relied on S&P credit ratings would have lost his shirt. Spain had a AAA rating as recently as 2009. There are many other examples in Nate’s column.

  4. #4 Troublesome Frog
    August 15, 2011

    Roman:

    Yields are going down because investors have little hope of getting better returns elsewhere.

    In that case, if S&P is doing a good job of rating sovereign debt, we should be seeing other AAA downgrades. In fact, we should already have seen them.

    I would rather look at the CDS spreads, where France (AAA) has 3x the spread of USA (AA+). Interesting.

    That’s a very good way to look at it. I see no reason to come up with an explanation for the divergence between US bond yields and the S&P rating beyond the simple fact that the S&P rating adds no information.

    Any story a pundit comes up with about what the sovereign debt markets are “thinking” these days is easily checked against a carefully selected set of spreads. Nothing that I can see squares with both the markets being right and S&P ratings making sense. Given the choice, I’m going to lean toward S&P not making sense.

  5. #5 escort bayan
    August 16, 2011

    That’s a very good way to look at it. I see no reason to come up with an explanation for the divergence between US bond yields and the S&P rating beyond the simple fact that the S&P rating adds no information.

  6. #6 travesti
    August 16, 2011

    Yields are going down because investors have little hope of getting better returns elsewhere.thankssss

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