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February 3, 2015

DOJ’s Big Dollar, Headline-Hunting Settlement Pattern, With S&P This Time, Is Just More of the Same: Too Little Transparency, No Accountability, and No Meaningful Punishment

Washington, D.C., February 3, 2015  – Dennis Kelleher, President and CEO of Better Markets, issued the following statement in response to the settlement reportedly reached between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) regarding the credit rating agency’s ratings of securities leading to the financial crisis:

“Today’s reported settlement between DOJ and S&P is grossly inadequate.  Ironically, the claims being made about the settlement appear to be as inflated as the credit ratings were in the years before the financial crash.  For what is allegedly years of egregious, reckless conduct, all the DOJ reportedly got was a big dollar settlement and big headlines, but not one admission of fault; not one individual punished; and, no detailed disclosure of exactly what S&P did; who at S&P did it; how S&P profited; and, who was harmed and by how much.  The American people deserve much better.”

“Allowing S&P to eliminate its liability merely by using shareholders’ money to pay a settlement, however big, seven years after the crash is not a meaningful punishment.  DOJ’s pattern of these types of settlements will not deter future wrongdoing.  Indeed, future illegal conduct is not only incentivized, but virtually guaranteed when DOJ refuses to identify, much less punish, individuals and when it fails to publicly disclose all the material facts of the fraud, including how it was done and how much the firm made.”

“This is particularly important here because rating agencies are crucial professional gatekeepers (like accountants) meant to stand independently and skeptically between Wall Street and investors big and small.  There would likely have been no housing bubble inflated by home mortgages and no financial crash in 2008 if trillions in toxic securities and derivatives weren’t awarded the Triple-A gold standard by these trusted gatekeepers.  After they gave their seal of approval to these toxic securities, Wall Street packaged and sold them throughout the world to unsuspecting investors who believed the ratings and thought they were virtually riskless.  These Triple-A rated securities were the financial time bombs that exploded in 2008 and the American people have been suffering and paying the price ever since.”

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Better Markets is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes the public interest in financial reform in the domestic and global capital and commodity markets. Better Markets advocates for transparency, oversight, and accountability with the goal of a stronger, safer financial system that is less prone to crisis and failure thereby eliminating or minimizing the need for more taxpayer funded bailouts. To learn more, visit www.bettermarkets.com.

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