Magazine article American Banker

Viewpoint: Role for All in Rating Cleanup

Magazine article American Banker

Viewpoint: Role for All in Rating Cleanup

Article excerpt

Byline: Georges Ugeux

The Securities and Exchange Commission's recent investigation into credit rating companies found that they improperly managed conflicts of interest and violated internal procedures. The SEC is taking action in response to the investigation, and this is in addition to the new rules it proposed for the industry last month.

At the same time, European Union finance ministers have backed a plan to monitor rating agencies more directly across member countries.

There is a danger here that the United States and the European Union will pursue different paths, creating two distinct sets of rules the agencies must follow.

This has the potential of complicating matters rather than clarifying them, and it ignores the fact that capital markets are now global and thus require global solutions.

If additional regulation is sought, U.S. and E.U. regulators must build upon the regulatory and corporate governance processes already in place. That regulation should be based on a global code. As I saw in my experience as head of the international group at the New York Stock Exchange, global inconsistency in regulatory developments - such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act - can create havoc.

Most importantly, it is imperative that solutions do not focus on the rating agencies alone.

Assessments from the agencies are an indispensable market tool, but they are not a substitute for credit review and due diligence by the financial institutions themselves.

All market participants have a role to play. In its recent best practices report, the Institute of International Finance, the global association of financial institutions, says risk management and improved underwriting standards are required from all financial institutions to prevent mistakes and restore confidence in the market. …

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