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Bank ratings: what determines their quality?

  • Hau, Harald
  • Langfield, Sam
  • Marqués-Ibáñez, David

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 contribute to 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. JEL Classification: G21, G23, G28

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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1484.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20121484
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  25. Paolo Fulghieri & Günter Strobl & Han Xia, 2014. "The Economics of Solicited and Unsolicited Credit Ratings," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 27(2), pages 484-518.
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