IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

To err is human: rating agencies and the interwar foreign government debt crisis


  • Marc Flandreau
  • Norbert Gaillard
  • Frank Packer


During the 1930s, rating agencies took up a central role in regulatory supervision that they still have today. The proximate cause for this changeover was the economic shock of the Great Depression. Exploring the performance of rating agencies in assessing the risks of sovereign debt, an important segment of the bond market, we do not find that superior forecasting capacities can explain the agencies' growing importance.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc Flandreau & Norbert Gaillard & Frank Packer, 2010. "To err is human: rating agencies and the interwar foreign government debt crisis," BIS Working Papers 335, Bank for International Settlements.
  • Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:335

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full PDF document
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sy, Amadou N.R., 2004. "Rating the rating agencies: Anticipating currency crises or debt crises?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(11), pages 2845-2867, November.
    2. Klug, Adam & Landon-Lane, John S. & White, Eugene N., 2005. "How could everyone have been so wrong? Forecasting the Great Depression with the railroads," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 27-55, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Eichengreen, Barry & Portes, Richard, 1986. "Debt and default in the 1930s : Causes and consequences," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 599-640, June.
    5. Reisen, Helmut & von Maltzan, Julia, 1999. "Boom and Bust and Sovereign Ratings," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(2), pages 273-293, July.
    6. G. Ferri & L.-G. Liu & J. E. Stiglitz, 1999. "The Procyclical Role of Rating Agencies: Evidence from the East Asian Crisis," Economic Notes, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, vol. 28(3), pages 335-355, November.
    7. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2002. "An Introduction," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 16(2), pages 149-150, August.
    8. Richard Cantor & Frank Packer, 1996. "Determinants and impact of sovereign credit ratings," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Oct, pages 37-53.
    9. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Ideen und Interessen
      by Tobias Straumann in Never mind the markets on 2012-07-31 09:00:32


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bussière, M. & Ristiniemi, A., 2012. "Credit Ratings and Debt Crises," Working papers 396, Banque de France.
    2. Marc Flandreau, 2013. "Do good sovereigns default? Lessons of history," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Sovereign risk: a world without risk-free assets?, volume 72, pages 19-25 Bank for International Settlements.
    3. Marc Flandreau & Juan Flores & Norbert Gaillard & Sebastian Nieto-Parra, 2011. "The Changing Role of Global Financial Brands in the Underwriting of Foreign Government Debt (1815-2010)," IHEID Working Papers 15-2011, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    4. Bradley, Michael & De Lira Salvatierra, Irving & Gulati, Mitu, 2014. "Lawyers: Gatekeepers of the sovereign debt market?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(S), pages 150-168.

    More about this item


    sovereign credit ratings; Great Depression; financial crisis; international bond markets;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:335. 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: (Christian Beslmeisl). General contact details of provider: .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.