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Bank ratings: What determines their quality?

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  • Hau, Harald
  • Langfield, Sam
  • Marqués Ibañez, David

Abstract

This paper examines the quality of credit ratings assigned to banks in Europe and the United States by the three largest rating agencies over the past two decades. We interpret credit ratings as relative assessments of creditworthiness, and define a new ordinal metric of rating error based on banks’ expected default frequencies. Our results suggest that rating agencies assign more positive ratings to large banks and to those institutions more likely to provide the rating agency with additional securities rating business (as indicated by private structured credit origination activity). These competitive distortions are economically significant and help perpetuate the existence of ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks. We also show that, overall, differential risk weights recommended by the Basel accords for investment grade banks bear no significant relationship to empirical default probabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Hau, Harald & Langfield, Sam & Marqués Ibañez, David, 2012. "Bank ratings: What determines their quality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9171, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9171
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    conflicts of interest; credit ratings; prudential regulation; rating agencies; sovereign risk;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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