IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

The Credit Ratings Game


The collapse of so many AAA-rated structured finance products in 2007-2008 has brought renewed attention to the causes of ratings failures and the conflicts of interest in the Credit Ratings Industry. We provide a model of competition among Credit Ratings Agencies (CRAs) in which there are three possible sources of conflicts: 1) the CRA conflict of interest of understating credit risk to attract more business; 2) the ability of issuers to purchase only the most favorable ratings; and 3) the trusting nature of some investor clienteles who may take ratings at face value. We show that when combined, these give rise to three fundamental equilibrium distortions. First, competition among CRAs can reduce market efficiency, as competition facilitates ratings shopping by issuers. Second, CRAs are more prone to inflate ratings in boom times, when there are more trusting investors, and when the risks of failure which could damage CRA reputation are lower. Third, the industry practice of tranching of structured products distorts market efficiency as its role is to deceive trusting investors. We argue that regulatory intervention requiring: i) upfront payments for rating services (before CRAs propose a rating to the issuer), ii) mandatory disclosure of any rating produced by CRAs, and iii) oversight of ratings methodology can substantially mitigate ratings inflation and promote efficiency.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by American Finance Association in its journal Journal of Finance.

Volume (Year): 67 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 85-112

in new window

Handle: RePEc:bla:jfinan:v:67:y:2012:i:1:p:85-112
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1993. "A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121743, June.
  2. Emmanuel Farhi & Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2013. "Fear of rejection? Tiered certification and transparency," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 44(4), pages 610-631, December.
  3. Dion Bongaerts & Martijn Cremers & William Goetzmann, 2008. "Tiebreaker: Certification and Multiple Credit Ratings," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2394, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Sep 2009.
  4. Benabou, R. & Laroque, G., 1988. "Using Privileged Information To Manipulate Markets: Insiders, Gurus And Credibility," Papers 19, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  5. Reinhart, Carmen & Levich, Richard & Majoni, Giovanni, 2002. "Ratings, rating agencies and the global financial system: Summary and policy implications," MPRA Paper 13249, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Morgan, John & Stocken, Phillip C, 2003. " An Analysis of Stock Recommendations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(1), pages 183-203, Spring.
  7. Marco Ottaviani & Peter Norman Sørensen, 2006. "Reputational cheap talk," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(1), pages 155-175, 03.
  8. Hirshleifer, David & Teoh, Siew Hong, 2003. "Limited attention, information disclosure, and financial reporting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-3), pages 337-386, December.
  9. Harrison, J Michael & Kreps, David M, 1978. "Speculative Investor Behavior in a Stock Market with Heterogeneous Expectations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 323-36, May.
  10. Boot, Arnoud W A & Milbourn, Todd, 2002. "Credit Ratings as Coordination Mechanism," CEPR Discussion Papers 3331, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Alessandro Lizzeri, 1999. "Information Revelation and Certification Intermediaries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 214-231, Summer.
  12. Efraim Benmelech & Jennifer Dlugosz, 2009. "The Credit Rating Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Efraim Benmelech & Jennifer Dlugosz, 2010. "The Credit Rating Crisis," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2009, Volume 24, pages 161-207 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Efraim Benmelech & Jennifer Dlugosz, 2009. "The Alchemy of CDO Credit Ratings," NBER Working Papers 14878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Ashcraft, Adam B. & Schuermann, Til, 2008. "Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 2(3), pages 191-309, June.
  15. Beatriz Mariano, 2008. "Do Reputational Concerns Lead to Reliable Ratings?," FMG Discussion Papers dp613, Financial Markets Group.
  16. Marco Pagano & Paolo Volpin, 2012. "Securitization, Transparency, and Liquidity," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(8), pages 2417-2453.
  17. Faure-Grimaud, Antoine & Peyrache, Eloïc & Quesada, Lucía, 2005. "The Ownership of Ratings," CEPR Discussion Papers 5432, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. 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.
  19. Erik Durbin & Ganesh Iyer, 2009. "Corruptible Advice," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 220-42, August.
  20. Allen N. Berger & Sally M. Davies & Mark J. Flannery, 2000. "Comparing market and supervisory assessments of bank performance: who knows what when?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 641-670.
  21. Roland Strausz, . "Honest Certification and the Threat of Capture," Papers 018, Departmental Working Papers.
  22. 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.
  23. Jose A. Scheinkman & Wei Xiong, 2003. "Overconfidence and Speculative Bubbles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1183-1219, December.
  24. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:1:p:155-175 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Bolton, Patrick & Freixas, Xavier & Shapiro, Joel, 2007. "Conflicts of interest, information provision, and competition in the financial services industry," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 297-330, August.
  26. Navin Kartik, 2009. "Strategic Communication with Lying Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1359-1395.
  27. Roman Inderst & Marco Ottaviani, 2009. "Misselling through Agents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 883-908, June.
  28. Bo Becker & Todd Milbourn, 2008. "Reputation and competition: evidence from the credit rating industry," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-051, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2010.
  29. Stolper, Anno, 2009. "Regulation of credit rating agencies," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1266-1273, July.
  30. Kartik, Navin & Ottaviani, Marco & Squintani, Francesco, 2007. "Credulity, lies, and costly talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 93-116, May.
  31. Souphala Chomsisengphet & Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2006. "The evolution of the subprime mortgage market," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 31-56.
  32. Mathis, Jérôme & McAndrews, James & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 2009. "Rating the raters: Are reputation concerns powerful enough to discipline rating agencies?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 657-674, July.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Economic Logic blog

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:jfinan:v:67:y:2012:i:1:p:85-112. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.