“Pension fund investors lost billions of dollars trusting the rosy credit ratings stamped on troubled mortgage securities before the 2008 crisis. In its aftermath, they have spent years and many dollars suing Moody’sand Standard & Poor’s, the main purveyors of those dubious grades.
“That these funds and other plaintiffs are trying to hold the ratings agencies to account is a good thing.
“And yet, there’s a mystifying disconnect in some of these disputes. On one hand, pension funds or state officials are telling the courts that Moody’s and S.&P. were negligent and their ratings marred by flawed methods and conflicts of interest. On the other hand, when the professionals who manage state funds buy bonds or mortgage securities, their investment policies require them to rely on the assessments of — you guessed it — the very same ratings agencies.
“Maine has a similar policy. I asked Neria Douglass, the state treasurer, why.
“’Our investors are conservative folks and they want ratings from the agencies they are comfortable with,’ she said. ‘I certainly have concerns about the industry configuration that can reward the wrong moves, but we’re not in the business of being early adapters.’
“These statements, while bewildering to me, came as no surprise to Dennis M. Kelleher, chief executive of Better Markets, a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in financial reform. He said he had seen no effort by professional investment managers to encourage the ratings agencies to change their operations or an effort to push the Securities and Exchange Commission to do a better job regulating the agencies.”
Read Gretchen Morgenson’s full New York Times editorial here