Of the myriad reasons behind the world-wide economic collapse that began in late 2007 and continues to this day, the complicity of ratings agencies should not be overlooked.
These agencies, like Moody's and Standard & Poor's routinely inflated ratings at the behest of financial institutions. They did so in a quest to gain the business (and therefore, fees) from financial institutions. That is, if you rate my junk as AAA, I'll give you tens of millions in fees.
The above is not merely the ravings of a "red." Just yesterday the Justice Department filed fraud charges against Standard & Poor's (the nation's largest rating agency) accusing them of inflating the ratings of mortgage investments, thereby setting them up for a crash when the financial crisis struck.
The Justice Department said that S&P "knowingly and with the intent to defraud,devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud investors..."
Naturally America's other ratings agencies are not without guilt--and the D o J has suits against them. Joe Nocera, Pulitzer-Prize winning business writer for "The New York Times" said on National Public Radio this morning, that ratings agencies, competing for business, routinely cooked the books and promised higher ratings in order to gain revenue.
I listened to Nocera this morning and I thought that these corrupt entities are really not ethically distinct from the ratings agencies that seem to rule our business.
I call it "The Awards-Industrial Complex" that in essence rates agencies and ads based on criteria that matter very little in the real world. In today's world, we compete not for market-share, but for award-share.
In a business where business should be the measure of all things, we have succumbed to the spurious allure of cheap trophies.
We worry more about how we're rated than about the money we generate for our clients.