POLICY BRIEF 11-21

What Can and Cannot Be Done about Rating Agencies

by Nicolas Veron, Peterson Institute for International Economics

November 2011

The constantly developing global financial system needs better risk assessments than Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs) have been collectively able to deliver during recent crises. More comprehensive public disclosure by issuers on their financial risks, which would not require intermediation by CRAs, is the best chance for new and better risk assessment methodologies and practices to emerge. To put it in a simplistic but concise way, what is needed is "a John Moody for the 21st century." CRAs themselves can perhaps be somewhat improved by adequate regulation and supervision, but public policy initiatives that focus only on CRAs are unlikely to adequately address the need for substantially better financial risk assessments. If real progress is to be made towards a better public understanding of financial risks, it will have to involve innovative approaches that even well-regulated CRAs, on the basis of recent experience, may not be the best placed to deliver.

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