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Reputation and competition: evidence from the credit rating industry

  • Bo Becker


    (Harvard Business School, Finance Unit)

  • Todd Milbourn


    (Washington University, St. Louis.John M. Olin School of Business)

The credit rating industry has historically been dominated by just two agencies, Moody’s and S&P, leading to longstanding legislative and regulatory calls for increased competition. The material entry of a third rating agency (Fitch) to the competitive landscape offers a unique experiment to empirically examine how in fact increased competition affects the credit ratings market. Increased competition from Fitch coincides with lower quality ratings from the incumbents: rating levels went up, the correlation between ratings and market-implied yields fell, and the ability of ratings to predict default deteriorated. We offer several possible explanations for these findings that are linked to existing theories.

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 09-051.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2008
Date of revision: Sep 2010
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-051
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  1. John Y. Campbell & Glen B. Taksler, 2002. "Equity Volatility and Corporate Bond Yields," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1945, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Holthausen, Robert W. & Leftwich, Richard W., 1986. "The effect of bond rating changes on common stock prices," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 57-89, September.
  3. George J. Mailath & Larry Samuelson, . "Who Wants a Good Reputation?," Penn CARESS Working Papers a3e3219aee004bd237f8112f9, Penn Economics Department.
  4. Grier, Paul & Katz, Steven, 1976. "The Differential Effects of Bond Rating Changes among Industrial and Public Utility Bonds by Maturity," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 226-39, April.
  5. Boot, Arnoud W A & Milbourn, Todd, 2002. "Credit Ratings as Coordination Mechanism," CEPR Discussion Papers 3331, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Jorion, Philippe & Liu, Zhu & Shi, Charles, 2005. "Informational effects of regulation FD: evidence from rating agencies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 309-330, May.
  7. 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 733-52, June.
  8. Douglas W. Diamond, 1998. "Reputation Acquisition in Debt Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 602, David K. Levine.
  9. Reinhart, Carmen & Levich, Richard & Majoni, Giovanni, 2002. "Ratings, rating agencies and the global financial system: Summary and policy implications," MPRA Paper 13249, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. repec:oup:restud:v:51:y:1984:i:2:p:197-207 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Ingram, Robert W & Brooks, Leroy D & Copeland, Ronald M, 1983. " The Information Content of Municipal Bond Rating Changes: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 38(3), pages 997-1003, June.
  12. repec:oup:qjecon:v:98:y:1983:i:4:p:659-79 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Bar-Isaac, Heski, 2005. "Imperfect competition and reputational commitment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 167-173, November.
  14. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  15. Cantor, Richard & Packer, Frank, 1997. "Differences of opinion and selection bias in the credit rating industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(10), pages 1395-1417, October.
  16. Graham, John R. & Harvey, Campbell R., 2001. "The theory and practice of corporate finance: evidence from the field," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2-3), pages 187-243, May.
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