Serious investors 'don't believe credit ratings'

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The Independent Online

A former senior member of staff at credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's has confirmed what critics have been arguing for some time: serious investors no longer believe the ratings.

David Jacob, the former head of structured finance at Standard & Poor's, put it bluntly in an interview with Bloomberg: "They're there because people have to have them, not because people believe in them.

"Maybe retail investors do, that's the unfortunate part, but I think institutional investors don't."

The ratings agencies are seen as having had a poor financial crisis, only downgrading securities long after it was clear they had been overvalued.

Mr Jacob, who was fired from S&P in December, confirms that agencies are more concerned with making money than offering honest assessments.

"Ratings are not God's holy work," he said.

"It's a business. It's a fine balance between trying to get a certain amount of market share versus losing your credibility."

He said policymakers have not gone far enough to reduce reliance on the ratings companies.