The oligopoly of ratings agencies that exists must end.
Today in his monthly letter, PIMCO’s Bill Gross talks about his disdain over the ratings agencies and how this whole Goldman/SEC battle is nothing but “hullabaloo” because it’s the ratings agencies who are actually at fault.
PIMCO: In all of the hullabaloo over Goldman Sachs, a CQ analysis of the rating services – Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch – has escaped front-page headlines. Not that a number of observers haven’t been on to them for a few years now, including yours truly. Back in July of 2007 some of you will remember my description of their role in the subprime crisis. “Many of these good-looking girls are not high-class assets worth 100 cents on the dollar. You were wooed, Mr. Moody’s and Mr. Poor’s, by the makeup, those six-inch hooker heels and a ‘tramp stamp.'”
Now, it seems, I was a little long on humour and a little short on the reality. Tramp stamp and hooker heels do not begin to describe the sordid, nonsensical role that the rating services performed in perpetrating and perpetuating the subprime craze, as well as reflecting the general deterioration of investment common sense during the past several decades. Their warnings were more than tardy when it came to the Enrons and the Worldcoms of 10 years past, and most recently their blind faith in sovereign solvency has led to egregious excess in Greece and their southern neighbours.
The result has been the foisting of AAA ratings on an unsuspecting (and ignorant) investment public who bought the rating service Kool-Aid that housing prices could never really go down or that countries don’t go bankrupt. Their quantitative models appeared to have a Mensa-like IQ of at least 160, but their common sense rating was closer to 60, resembling an idiot savant with a full command of the mathematics, but no idea of how to apply them.