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Testing conflicts of interest at bond rating agencies with market anticipation: evidence that reputation incentives dominate

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  • Daniel M. Covitz
  • Paul Harrison
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    Abstract

    This paper presents the first comprehensive test of whether well-known conflicts of interest at bond rating agencies importantly influence their actions. This hypothesis is tested against the alternative that rating agency actions are primarily influenced by a countervailing incentive to protect their reputations as delegated monitors. These two hypotheses generate a number of testable predictions regarding the anticipation of credit-rating downgrades by the bond market, which we investigate using a new data set of about 2,000 credit rating migrations from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, and matching issuer-level bond prices. The findings strongly indicate that rating changes do not appear to be importantly influenced by rating agency conflicts of interest but, rather, suggest that rating agencies are motivated primarily by reputation-related incentives.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2003-68.

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    Date of creation: 2003
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2003-68

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    Keywords: Bonds;

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    1. Goh, Jeremy C. & Ederington, Louis H., 1999. "Cross-sectional variation in the stock market reaction to bond rating changes," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 101-112.
    2. Hand, John R M & Holthausen, Robert W & Leftwich, Richard W, 1992. " The Effect of Bond Rating Agency Announcements on Bond and Stock Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(2), pages 733-52, June.
    3. Donald P. Morgan, 2002. "Rating Banks: Risk and Uncertainty in an Opaque Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 874-888, September.
    4. Richard Cantor & Frank Packer, 1994. "The credit rating industry," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sum, pages 1-26.
    5. Jeremy I. Bulow & Kenneth Rogoff, 1988. "Sovereign Debt: Is To Forgive To Forget?," NBER Working Papers 2623, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Diamond, Douglas W, 1991. "Monitoring and Reputation: The Choice between Bank Loans and Directly Placed Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 689-721, August.
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    Cited by:
    1. Baghai, Ramin & Servaes, Henri & Tamayo, Ane, 2011. "Have Rating Agencies Become More Conservative? Implications for Capital Structure and Debt Pricing," CEPR Discussion Papers 8446, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. John Ammer & Nathanael Clinton, 2004. "Good news is no news? The impact of credit rating changes on the pricing of asset-backed securities," International Finance Discussion Papers 809, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Jiang, John (Xuefeng) & Harris Stanford, Mary & Xie, Yuan, 2012. "Does it matter who pays for bond ratings? Historical evidence," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 607-621.
    4. Duan, Jin-Chuan & Van Laere, Elisabeth, 2012. "A public good approach to credit ratings – From concept to reality," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 3239-3247.
    5. Becker, Bo & Milbourn, Todd, 2011. "How did increased competition affect credit ratings?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 493-514, September.
    6. Rablen, Matthew D., 2013. "Divergence in credit ratings," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 12-16.
    7. Mählmann, Thomas, 2008. "Rating agencies and the role of rating publication rights," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(11), pages 2412-2422, November.
    8. Imai, Masami, 2006. "Market discipline and deposit insurance reform in Japan," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 3433-3452, December.
    9. Masami Imai, 2006. "Market Discipline and Deposit Insurance Reform in Japan," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2006-007, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
    10. Manso, Gustavo, 2013. "Feedback effects of credit ratings," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 535-548.

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