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DOJ and State Partners Secure $1.375 Billion Settlement with S&P for Defrauding Investors in Lead Up to the Financial Crisis, by Sabrina I. Pacifici, BeSpacific Blog

http://tinyurl.com/l8lykkr

News release: ‘Attorney General Eric Holder announced today [February 3, 2015] that the Department of Justice and 19 states and the District of Columbia have entered into a $1.375 billion settlement agreement with the rating agency Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC, along with its parent corporation McGraw Hill Financial Inc., to resolve allegations that S&P had engaged in a scheme to defraud investors in structured financial products known as Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs).  The agreement resolves the department’s 2013 lawsuit against S&P, along with the suits of 19 states and the District of Columbia. Each of the lawsuits allege that investors incurred substantial losses on RMBS and CDOs for which S&P issued inflated ratings that misrepresented the securities’ true credit risks.  Other allegations assert that S&P falsely represented that its ratings were objective, independent and uninfluenced by S&P’s business relationships with the investment banks that issued the securities. The settlement announced today is comprised of several elements. In addition to the payment of $1.375 billion, S&P has acknowledged conduct associated with its ratings of RMBS and CDOs during 2004 to 2007 in an agreed statement of facts.  It has further agreed to formally retract an allegation that the United States’ lawsuit was filed in retaliation for the defendant’s decisions with regard to the credit of the United States. Finally, S&P has agreed to comply with the consumer protection statutes of each of the settling states and the District of Columbia, and to respond, in good faith, to requests from any of the states and the District of Columbia for information or material concerning any possible violation of those laws. ’On more than one occasion, the company’s leadership ignored senior analysts who warned that the company had given top ratings to financial products that were failing to perform as advertised,’ said Attorney General Holder.  ’As S&P admits under this settlement, company executives complained that the company declined to downgrade underperforming assets because it was worried that doing so would hurt the company’s business.  While this strategy may have helped S&P avoid disappointing its clients, it did major harm to the larger economy, contributing to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.’ . . . [Emphasis added.]

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