Moody’s

Michael Lewis had this to say yesterday about Greg Smith’s criticisms of Goldman Sachs:1

None of this exactly came as news. The news was that a living, breathing Goldman employee had said it. There was also, between the lines, a fresh hope: Goldman had employed an idealist! For a decade!

That was pretty much my reaction to the Department of Justice’s curiously underwhelming complaint against S&P for misrating subprime-mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis. Wait: S&P got paid to rate deals, and wanted to rate more deals and get paid more, so it rated deals favorably? TELL ME MORE. But then it is enlivened by an occasional cameo from a quant truther whom you would not have expected to exist inside S&P. Like Executive H:

Or Senior Analyst C:

Haha what? You can tell that the DoJ is getting its analytical framework for this case from those quant truthers, but that framework is dumb. Read more »

  • 04 Feb 2013 at 2:25 PM

Moody’s Attempts To Ruin Dick Handler’s Good Time

Until recently, being chief executive officer of Jefferies was an exercise in getting shit on. As the man in charge for the last 13 years, Richard Handler has had to put up with a lot of hurtful remarks that, while nothing to the person tossing them off, undoubtedly stung quite badly. “Third-tier bank.” Place “I wouldn’t let my maid’s kid work.” “Poor man’s Morgan Keegan.” So you can imagine that after a string of victories over the last several months that included getting involved in the slaughterhouse business and paying all-cash bonuses unlike some people, Handler and Co. would be feeling pretty good about themselves and that after announcing to the world they were getting paid more this year than their counterparts at big kid banks, they’d be feeling REALLY good about themselves. That payday, however, did not go over well when input into Moody’s proprietary just-make-it-up credit-rating model, and now Handler’s plan to gather everyone up to watch as the board shoots his compensation out of a tee-shirt gun in hundred dollar bills is completely ruined.* Read more »

  • 30 Nov 2012 at 6:17 PM

EFSF Conveniently Downgraded

Here are two tiny little puzzles about Moody’s's’s downgrade of the European Financial Stability Facility from Aaa to Aa1 just now. But first, here is some math on EFSF guarantees; basically every €100 of EFSF bonds has €165 of member guarantees, of which €103ish were Aaa-rated and €62ish were not. Until Moody’s downgraded France last week. Now it appears that each €100 EFSF bond has only €67 of Aaa guarantees, €36 of Aa1, and €62 of … various lesser things.

So the puzzles: first, this thing – the EFSF – is basically a structured credit product that is roughly two-thirds guaranteed by a Aaa thing, one-third guaranteed by an Aa1 thing, and roughly another two-thirds guaranteed by an assorted lower-rated miscellany that you can safely ignore. Should that make it (1) Aaa, (2) Aa1, or (4) other? S&P, as it happens, has a mechanism to sort of solve this, which is to say that a bond is rated by its probability of defaulting. Discarding the cats and dogs (and ignoring correlation questions), something that is 1/3 AA+ and 2/3 AAA has about an AA+ chance of defaulting: even if those AAAs are rock-solid, a default by that AA+ counts 100% as a default. Moody’s doesn’t have that – they, in theory, rate structured products1 based on expected loss, not just chances that there will be a default. So something that is two-thirds Aaa and one-third Aa1 is … at least arithmetically closer to Aaa than Aa1, is it not? (Especially if you assume the cats and dogs add a little bit of recovery.) But here you are stuck in a granular world: a thing that is two-thirds Germany and one-third France may be better than France, but I guess it’s also worse than Germany, so you gotta pick one or the other and I suppose pessimism is always a good look.

But a second and possibly related puzzle: if you were the EFSF, would you be bummed about being downgraded? Here is a weird fact2 (via Alea): Read more »

They’re gonna downgrade their outlook from stable to negative though, just in case. [WSJ]

  • 22 Jun 2012 at 10:03 AM
  • Banks

Moody’s Slightly Reduces Overrating Of Banks

Are we supposed to care about these downgrades? I like Glenn Schorr at Nomura, emphasis mine:

We think the net financial impact of these downgrades will be manageable as 1) potential collateral calls are small percentages of these firms’ liquidity pools; 2) counterparties have been preparing for this for some time and ratings downgrades have been an issue for the last 2+ years (there was little impact on Citi and BAC when they were downgraded back in September of 2011); 3) ratings are a relative game: given that Moody’s downgraded all capital markets firms, no single-firm is an outlier, so we don’t expect to see one company uniquely impacted. Yes, we get that counterparties looking to do long-dated derivatives might prefer a single-A rated entity, but as Basel III is implemented and more derivatives move to central clearinghouses, counterparty ratings should become less meaningful and clients will adapt (and not do all their business with JPM and GS).

It would be a serious misinterpretation of credit ratings to think of them as a global rank ordering of risks in the world. “A-rated things are of course safer than BBB-rated things,” you say, and get punched in the face repeatedly by life. A-rated things are not safer than BBB-rated things. A-rated RMBS CDOs were not safer than BBB-rated corporates, A-rated corporates are not safer than BBB-rated municipalities, and A-rated banks are it goes without saying not safer than BBB-rated software companies. Nobody really suggests otherwise – if they did, this graph would be a huge embarrassment to Moody’s: Read more »

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the debt ratings of 15 major international banks and securities firms on Thursday, a move that could cost the banks billions of dollars in extra collateral…U.S banks that were downgraded included: Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Morgan Stanley. “All of the banks affected by today’s actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital markets activities,” Moody’s said in a statement. “However, they also engage in other, often market leading business activities that are central to Moody’s assessment of their credit profiles,” the firm added. “These activities can provide important ‘shock absorbers’ that mitigate the potential volatility of capital markets operations, but they also present unique risks and challenges.” [CNBC, related]

  • 13 Feb 2012 at 8:03 PM

Moody’s Treads Where No Other Rating Agency Dare

“Moody’s Investors Service downgraded six European nations and became the first ratings firm to warn the U.K.’s rating could be at risk, citing the area’s weakening ability to implement measures aimed at reducing debt…Where Moody’s did deviate from recent actions by other ratings firms was in changing the outlook for the U.K. There had been no indication the U.K.’s outlook was necessarily in danger based on how other ratings firms view U.K.’s debt. Both S&P and Fitch have a stable outlook on their U.K. rating.” [WSJ]