Rating agencies and the role of rating publication rights
While credit rating agencies disclose all public ratings as a matter of policy, a firm can choose whether to make a so called private rating public or to keep it confidential. This paper analyzes the economic role of such rating publication rights. In particular, the paper tries to answer the following two questions: (1) If firms have scope to disclose agency ratings at their own discretion, can they use this discretion strategically and conceal low-quality ratings?, and (2), if this is the case, what are the economic implications for rated firms, unrated firms and the rating agency, resulting from strategically motivated selective rating disclosures? Using a theoretical model, it is shown that an equilibrium with partial nondisclosure of low-quality ratings can emerge whenever investors cannot be sure whether rating nondisclosure is due to the firm being not rated, or due to the rating's adverse content. Moreover, since from an investors' perspective, strategically acting rated firms and unrated firms are pooled, unrated firms' debt is always under-valued (compared to a situation in which investors know that the firm is not rated), and the debt of firms concealing their rating is always over-valued.
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