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

How did increased competition affect credit ratings?

  • Becker, Bo
  • Milbourn, Todd

The credit rating industry has historically been dominated by just two agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, leading to long-standing legislative and regulatory calls for increased competition. The material entry of a third rating agency (Fitch) to the competitive landscape offers a unique experiment to empirically examine how increased competition affects the credit ratings market. What we find is relatively troubling. Specifically, we discover that increased competition from Fitch coincides with lower quality ratings from the incumbents: Rating levels went up, the correlation between ratings and market-implied yields fell, and the ability of ratings to predict default deteriorated. We offer several possible explanations for these findings that are linked to existing theories.

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: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

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 Elsevier in its journal Journal of Financial Economics.

Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 493-514

in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:493-514
Contact details of provider: Web page:

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. Dion Bongaerts & K.J. Martijn Cremers & William N. Goetzmann, 2009. "Tiebreaker: Certification and Multiple Credit Ratings," NBER Working Papers 15331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Arnoud W. A. Boot & Todd T. Milbourn, 2002. "Credit Ratings as Coordination Mechanisms," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 457, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  3. Vasiliki Skreta & Laura Veldkamp, 2008. "Ratings Shopping and Asset Complexity: A Theory of Ratings Inflation," Working Papers 08-28, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  4. Marshall E. Blume & Felix Lim & A. Craig MacKinlay, . "The Declining Credit Quality of US Corporate Debt: Myth or Reality?," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 3-98, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  5. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:125:y:2010:i:4:p:1683-1725 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Bar-Isaac, Heski & Shapiro, Joel, 2013. "Ratings quality over the business cycle," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 62-78.
  7. Darren J. Kisgen, 2006. "Credit Ratings and Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(3), pages 1035-1072, 06.
  8. 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.
  9. Jorion, Philippe & Liu, Zhu & Shi, Charles, 2005. "Informational effects of regulation FD: evidence from rating agencies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 309-330, May.
  10. Chemmanur, T.J. & Fulghieri, P., 1992. "Reputation, Renegotiation, and the Choice Between Bank Loans and Publicity Traded Debt," Papers 92-24, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  11. repec:fth:pennfi:67 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2009. "Reputational Incentives for Restaurant Hygiene," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 237-67, February.
  13. 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.
  14. Strausz, Roland, 2004. "Honest Certification and the Threat of Capture," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 25, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  15. Marshall E. Blume & Felix Lim & A. Craig MacKinlay, . "The Declining Credit Quality of US Corporate Debt: Myth or Reality?," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 03-98, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  16. Mailath,G.J. & Samuelson,L., 1998. "Who wants a good reputation?," Working papers 19, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  17. Benabou, R. & Laroque, G., 1988. "Using Privileged Information To Manipulate Markets: Insiders, Gurus And Credibility," Papers 19, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  18. Douglas W. Diamond, 1998. "Reputation Acquisition in Debt Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 602, David K. Levine.
  19. Spatt, Chester, 2009. "Discussion of "Ratings Shopping and Asset Complexity: A Theory of Ratings Inflation"," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 696-699, July.
  20. Benmelech, Efraim & Dlugosz, Jennifer, 2009. "The alchemy of CDO credit ratings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 617-634, July.
  21. John Y. Campbell & Glen B. Taksler, 2002. "Equity Volatility and Corporate Bond Yields," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1945, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  22. Richard Cantor & Frank Packer, 1994. "The credit rating industry," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sum, pages 1-26.
  23. Patrick Bolton & Xavier Freixas & Joel Shapiro, 2012. "The Credit Ratings Game," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(1), pages 85-112, 02.
  24. Joshua Coval & Jakub Jurek & Erik Stafford, 2009. "The Economics of Structured Finance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 3-25, Winter.
  25. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  26. Marshall E. Blume & Felix Lim & A. Craig Mackinlay, 1998. "The Declining Credit Quality of U.S. Corporate Debt: Myth or Reality?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(4), pages 1389-1413, 08.
  27. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
  28. Judith Chevalier & Glenn Ellison, 1998. "Career Concerns of Mutual Fund Managers," NBER Working Papers 6394, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Cantor, Richard & Packer, Frank, 1997. "Differences of opinion and selection bias in the credit rating industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(10), pages 1395-1417, October.
  30. Mailath, George J & Samuelson, Larry, 2001. "Who Wants a Good Reputation? Erratum," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(3), pages 714, July.
  31. 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.
  32. Zhihua CHEN & Aziz A. LOOKMAN & Norman SCHURHOFF & Duane J. SEPPI, 2010. "Why Ratings Matter: Evidence from Lehman's Index Rating Rule Change," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 10-30, Swiss Finance Institute.
  33. Bar-Isaac, Heski, 2005. "Imperfect competition and reputational commitment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 167-173, November.
  34. Graham, John R. & Harvey, Campbell R., 2001. "The theory and practice of corporate finance: evidence from the field," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2-3), pages 187-243, May.
  35. Bar-Isaac, Heski & Tadelis, Steven, 2008. "Seller Reputation," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 4(4), pages 273-351, August.
  36. Harrison Hong & Jeffrey D. Kubik, 2003. "Analyzing the Analysts: Career Concerns and Biased Earnings Forecasts," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(1), pages 313-351, 02.
  37. Daniel M. Covitz & Paul Harrison, 2003. "Testing conflicts of interest at bond rating agencies with market anticipation: evidence that reputation incentives dominate," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2003-68, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:493-514. 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: (Zhang, Lei)

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.