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MBS ratings and the mortgage credit boom

  • Adam B. Ashcraft
  • Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham
  • James Vickery

We study credit ratings on subprime and Alt-A mortgage-backed-securities (MBS) deals issued between 2001 and 2007, the period leading up to the subprime crisis. The fraction of highly rated securities in each deal is decreasing in mortgage credit risk (measured either ex ante or ex post), suggesting that ratings contain useful information for investors. However, we also find evidence of significant time variation in risk-adjusted credit ratings, including a progressive decline in standards around the MBS market peak between the start of 2005 and mid-2007. Conditional on initial ratings, we observe underperformance (high mortgage defaults and losses and large rating downgrades) among deals with observably higher risk mortgages based on a simple ex ante model and deals with a high fraction of opaque low-documentation loans. These findings hold over the entire sample period, not just for deal cohorts most affected by the crisis.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 449.

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Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:449
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  1. Ashcraft, Adam B. & Schuermann, Til, 2008. "Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 2(3), pages 191-309, June.
  2. Doron Kliger & Oded Sarig, 2000. "The Information Value of Bond Ratings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(6), pages 2879-2902, December.
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  9. Beatriz Mariano, 2008. "Do Reputational Concerns Lead to Reliable Ratings?," FMG Discussion Papers dp613, Financial Markets Group.
  10. Cantor, Richard, 2001. "Moody's investors service response to the consultative paper issued by the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision "A new capital adequacy framework"," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 171-185, January.
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  13. Taylor D. Nadauld & Shane M. Sherlund, 2009. "The role of the securitization process in the expansion of subprime credit," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-28, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Case, Karl E & Shiller, Robert J, 1989. "The Efficiency of the Market for Single-Family Homes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 125-37, March.
  15. Geetesh Bhardwaj & Rajdeep Sengupta, 2008. "Where's the smoking gun? a study of underwriting standards for US subprime mortgages," Working Papers 2008-036, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  16. Amato, Jeffery D. & Furfine, Craig H., 2004. "Are credit ratings procyclical?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(11), pages 2641-2677, November.
  17. 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.
  18. Bo Becker & Todd Milbourn, 2008. "Reputation and competition: evidence from the credit rating industry," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-051, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2010.
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