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Testing conflicts of interest at bond rating agencies with market anticipation: evidence that reputation incentives dominate

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  • Daniel M. Covitz
  • Paul Harrison

Abstract

This paper presents the first comprehensive test of whether well-known conflicts of interest at bond rating agencies importantly influence their actions. This hypothesis is tested against the alternative that rating agency actions are primarily influenced by a countervailing incentive to protect their reputations as delegated monitors. These two hypotheses generate a number of testable predictions regarding the anticipation of credit-rating downgrades by the bond market, which we investigate using a new data set of about 2,000 credit rating migrations from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, and matching issuer-level bond prices. The findings strongly indicate that rating changes do not appear to be importantly influenced by rating agency conflicts of interest but, rather, suggest that rating agencies are motivated primarily by reputation-related incentives.

Suggested Citation

  • 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 (US).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2003-68
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 733-752, June.
    2. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "Sovereign Debt: Is to Forgive to Forget?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 43-50, March.
    3. Richard Cantor & Frank Packer, 1994. "The credit rating industry," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sum, pages 1-26.
    4. Diamond, Douglas W, 1991. "Monitoring and Reputation: The Choice between Bank Loans and Directly Placed Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 689-721, August.
    5. Goh, Jeremy C. & Ederington, Louis H., 1999. "Cross-sectional variation in the stock market reaction to bond rating changes," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 101-112.
    6. 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.
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    Keywords

    Bonds;

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