Posts tagged ‘Bonds’

Warren Buffett on Credit Rating Agencies, Moody’s, S&P, Bonds, and Corporate Shareholders

Moody’s Investors Service, often referred to as Moody’s, is the bond credit rating business of Moody’s Corporation, representing the company’s traditional line of business and its historical name. Moody’s Investors Service provides international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities and, with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, is considered one of the Big Three credit rating agencies.

The company ranks the creditworthiness of borrowers using a standardized ratings scale which measures expected investor loss in the event of default. Moody’s Investors Service rates debt securities in several market segments related to public and commercial securities in the bond market. These include government, municipal and corporate bonds; managed investments such as money market funds, fixed-income funds and hedge funds; financial institutions including banks and non-bank finance companies; and asset classes in structured finance.[1] In Moody’s Investors Service’s ratings system securities are assigned a rating from Aaa to C, with Aaa being the highest quality and C the lowest quality.

Moody’s was founded by John Moody in 1909 to produce manuals of statistics related to stocks and bonds and bond ratings. In 1975, the company was identified as a Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (NRSRO) by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Following several decades of ownership by Dun & Bradstreet, Moody’s Investors Service became a separate company in 2000; Moody’s Corporation was established as a holding company.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, commercial paper and bank deposits began to be rated. As well, the major agencies began charging the issuers of bonds as well as investors — Moody’s began doing this in 1970[5] — thanks in part to a growing free rider problem related to the increasing availability of inexpensive photocopy machines,[14] and the increased complexity of the financial markets.[10][15] Rating agencies also grew in size as the number of issuers grew exponentially,[16] both in the United States and abroad, making the credit rating business significantly more profitable. In 2005 Moody’s estimated that 90% of credit rating agency revenues came from issuer fees.[17]

The end of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 led to the liberalization of financial regulations, and the global expansion of capital markets in the 1970s and 1980s.[5] In 1975, the SEC changed its minimum capital requirements for broker-dealers, using bond ratings as a measurement. Moody’s and nine other agencies (later five, due to consolidation) were identified by the SEC as “nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations” (NRSROs) for broker-dealers to use in meeting these requirements.[3][18]

The 1980s and beyond saw the global capital market expand; Moody’s opened its first overseas offices in Japan in 1985, followed by offices in the United Kingdom in 1986, France in 1988, Germany in 1991, Hong Kong in 1994, India in 1998 and China in 2001.[5] The number of bonds rated by Moody’s and the Big Three agencies grew substantially as well. As of 1997, Moody’s was rating about trillion in securities from 20,000 U.S. and 1,200 non-U.S. issuers.[12] The 1990s and 2000s were also a time of increased scrutiny, as Moody’s was sued by unhappy issuers and investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice,[19] as well as criticism following the collapse of Enron, the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent late-2000s financial crisis.[5][20]

Following several years of rumors and pressure from institutional shareholders,[21] in December 1999 Moody’s parent Dun & Bradstreet announced it would spin off Moody’s Investors Service into a separate publicly traded company. Although Moody’s had fewer than 1,500 employees in its division, it represented about 51% of Dun & Bradstreet profits in the year before the announcement.[22] The spin-off was completed on September 30, 2000,[23] and, in the half decade that followed, the value of Moody’s shares improved by more than 300%.[12]

In June 2013, Moody’s Investor Service has warned that Thailand’s country’s credit rating may be damaged due to an increasingly costly rice-pledging scheme which lost 200 billion baht (.5 billion) in 2011-2012.
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