February 05, 2014

And citizens could sue agencies for too good credit ratings of sovereigns, which caused governments to borrow too much.

Sir, I refer to Stephen Foley’s and Guy Dinmore’s “Italy eyes €234bn suit after ratings groups failed to value la dolce vita” February 5. It reminded me of an Op-Ed of September 2002 titled “The riskiness of country risk”.

In it I wrote: “What a nightmare it must be to be risk evaluator! Imagine trying to get some shuteye while lying awake in bed thinking that any moment one of those judges, those with the global reach that have a say in anything and everything, determinates that a country has become essentially bankrupt due to your mistake, and then drags you kicking and screaming before an International Court, accused of violating human rights.

What a difficult job to be a rater of sovereign creditworthiness! If they overdo it and underestimate the risk of a given country, the latter will most assuredly be inundated with fresh loans and will be leveraged to the hilt. The result will be a serious wave of adjustments sometime down the line. If on the contrary, they exaggerate the country’s risk level, it can only result in a reduction in the market value of the national debt, increasing interest expense and making access to international financial markets difficult. Any which way, either extreme will cause hunger and human misery.”

And so what’s more to say. If the Italian Government sues the credit rating agencies for having given Italy too bad ratings, an Italian citizen might equally sue these for having given Italy too good ratings

And after that, what about suing the regulator who with their risk-weighted capital requirements for banks multiplied immensely any signal emitted by the credit ratings?