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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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  1. Matthias Efing, 2013. "Bank Capital Regulation with an Opportunistic Rating Agency," CESifo Working Paper Series 4267, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. 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.
  3. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "The Aftermath of Financial Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 7209, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  5. Huizinga, H.P. & Laeven, L., 2009. "Accounting Discretion of Banks During a Financial Crisis," Discussion Paper 2009-58, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  6. Efraim Benmelech & Jennifer Dlugosz, 2009. "The Credit Rating Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • 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.
  7. Marco Pagano & Paolo Volpin, 2010. "Credit ratings failures and policy options," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 25, pages 401-431, 04.
  8. Jens Hilscher & Mungo Wilson, 2011. "Credit ratings and credit risk," Working Papers 31, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
  9. Frank Packer & Nikola Tarashev, 2011. "Rating methodologies for banks," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, June.
  10. Demirgüc-Kunt, A. & Huizinga, H.P., 2011. "Do We need Big Banks? Evidence on Performance, Strategy and Market Discipline," Discussion Paper 2011-021, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  11. Murillo Campello & John Graham & Campbell R. Harvey, 2009. "The Real Effects of Financial Constraints: Evidence from a Financial Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15552, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Gustavo Manso, 2011. "Feedback Effects of Credit Ratings," 2011 Meeting Papers 1338, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Bar-Isaac, Heski & Shapiro, Joel, 2013. "Ratings quality over the business cycle," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 62-78.
  14. Garlappi, Lorenzo & Uppal, Raman & Wang, Tan, 2005. "Portfolio Selection with Parameter and Model Uncertainty: A Multi-Prior Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 5148, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Jie He & Jun Qian & Philip E. Strahan, 2011. "Credit Ratings and the Evolution of the Mortgage-Backed Securities Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 131-35, May.
  16. Skreta, Vasiliki & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Ratings shopping and asset complexity: A theory of ratings inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 678-695, July.
  17. Mariathasan, Mike & Merrouche, Ouarda, 2014. "The manipulation of basel risk-weights," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 300-321.
  18. Becker, Bo & Milbourn, Todd, 2011. "How did increased competition affect credit ratings?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 493-514, September.
  19. Merton, Robert C., 1973. "On the pricing of corporate debt: the risk structure of interest rates," Working papers 684-73., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  20. Donald P. Morgan, 2002. "Rating Banks: Risk and Uncertainty in an Opaque Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 874-888, September.
  21. Patrick Bolton & Xavier Freixas & Joel Shapiro, 2010. "The credit ratings game," Economics Working Papers 1221, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  22. Lily Fang & Ayako Yasuda, 2009. "The Effectiveness of Reputation as a Disciplinary Mechanism in Sell-Side Research," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(9), pages 3735-3777, September.
  23. Heski Bar-Isaac & Joel Shapiro, 2011. "Credit Ratings Accuracy and Analyst Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 120-24, May.
  24. Crouhy, Michel & Galai, Dan & Mark, Robert, 2000. "A comparative analysis of current credit risk models," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 59-117, January.
  25. Cole, Rebel A. & White, Lawrence J., 2010. "Déjà vu all over again: The causes of U.S. commercial bank failures this time around," MPRA Paper 24690, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 28 Jul 2010.
  26. Sreedhar T. Bharath & Tyler Shumway, 2008. "Forecasting Default with the Merton Distance to Default Model," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(3), pages 1339-1369, May.
  27. Lawrence J. White, 2010. "Markets: The Credit Rating Agencies," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 211-26, Spring.
  28. Wade Cook & Moshe Kress & Lawrence Seiford, 1986. "Information and preference in partial orders: A bimatrix representation," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 197-207, June.
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