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Did Credit Rating Agencies Make Unbiased Assumptions on CDOs?


  • John M. Griffin
  • Dragon Yongjun Tang


We compare key CDO assumptions from two departments within the same rating agency but with different financial incentives. Assumptions made by the ratings division are more favorable than those by the surveillance department. The differences are not explained by collateral switching during the ramp-up period, a long time gap between reports, nor the collapse of the CDO market in 2007 Additionally, CDOs rated with more favorable assumptions by the ratings group were more likely to be subsequently downgraded. As the useful signals from the surveillance group were seemingly ignored, these findings suggest rating agencies bias towards high ratings.

Suggested Citation

  • John M. Griffin & Dragon Yongjun Tang, 2011. "Did Credit Rating Agencies Make Unbiased Assumptions on CDOs?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 125-130, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:125-30

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Skreta, Vasiliki & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Ratings shopping and asset complexity: A theory of ratings inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 678-695, July.
    2. Adam B. Ashcraft & Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham & James Vickery, 2010. "MBS ratings and the mortgage credit boom," Staff Reports 449, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wojtowicz, Marcin, 2014. "CDOs and the financial crisis: Credit ratings and fair premia," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1-13.
    2. Broer, Tobias, 2016. "Securitisation Bubbles: Structured finance with disagreement about default correlations," CEPR Discussion Papers 11145, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Efing, Matthias & Hau, Harald, 2015. "Structured debt ratings: Evidence on conflicts of interest," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(1), pages 46-60.
    4. Kotchen, Matthew J. & Potoski, Matthew, 2014. "Conflicts of interest distort public evaluations: Evidence from NCAA football coaches," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 51-63.
    5. Jeon, Doh-Shin & Lovo, Stefano, 2013. "Credit rating industry: A helicopter tour of stylized facts and recent theories," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 643-651.
    6. Dimitrov, Valentin & Palia, Darius & Tang, Leo, 2015. "Impact of the Dodd-Frank act on credit ratings," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(3), pages 505-520.
    7. Stephanie Meyr & Sharon Tennyson, 2015. "Product Ratings as a Market Reaction to Deregulation: Evidence From the German Insurance Market," Risk Management and Insurance Review, American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 18(1), pages 77-100, March.
    8. repec:kap:jbuset:v:147:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2953-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Thomas Mählmann, 2016. "Market share and risk taking: the role of collateral asset managers in the collapse of the arbitrage CDO market," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 47(2), pages 273-303, August.
    10. Lugo, Stefano, 2014. "Discretionary ratings and the pricing of subprime mortgage-backed securities," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 248-260.
    11. Braun, Tobias, 2011. "Wie interagieren Banken und Ratingagenturen? Eine ökonomische Analyse des Bewertungsmarktes für strukturierte Finanzprodukte," Discussion Papers 2011-17, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Chair of Economic Ethics.

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