Credit rating agencies

SEC adopts credit rating agency reform rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has adopted new requirements for credit rating agencies to enhance governance, protect against conflicts of interest and increase transparency. 

The new rules and amendments, which implement 14 rulemaking requirements under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, apply to credit rating agencies registered with the commission as nationally recognised statistical rating organisations (NRSROs).
 
“This expansive package of reforms will strengthen the overall quality of credit ratings, enhance the transparency of credit rating agencies and increase their accountability,” says SEC chair Mary Jo White. “Today’s reforms will help protect investors and markets against a repeat of the conduct and practices that were central to the financial crisis.”
 
The new requirements for NRSROs address internal controls, conflicts of interest, disclosure of credit rating performance statistics, procedures to protect the integrity and transparency of rating methodologies, disclosures to promote the transparency of credit ratings, and standards for training, experience, and competence of credit analysts.  The requirements provide for an annual certification by the CEO as to the effectiveness of internal controls and additional certifications to accompany credit ratings attesting that the rating was not influenced by other business activities.
 
The commission also adopted requirements for issuers, underwriters, and third-party due diligence services to promote the transparency of the findings and conclusions of third-party due diligence regarding asset-backed securities.
 
Certain amendments will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.  The amendments with respect to the annual report on internal controls and the production and disclosure of performance statistics will be effective on 1 January 2015, which means that the first internal controls report to be submitted by an NRSRO would cover the fiscal year that ends on or after 1 January 2015, and the first annual certification on Form NRSRO relating to performance statistics is required for the annual certifications filed after the end of the 2015 calendar year. 
 
The following provisions are effective nine months after publication in the Federal Register: prohibiting the sales and marketing conflict; addressing look-back reviews to determine whether the credit analyst’s prospects of future employment influenced a credit rating; requiring the disclosure of rating histories; addressing rating methodologies; requiring the form and certification to accompany credit ratings; addressing issuer and underwriter disclosure of third-party due diligence findings; addressing the certification of a third-party due diligence provider; addressing NRSRO standards of training, experience, and competence; and addressing universal rating symbols. 
 
This period is intended to provide time for NRSROs, issuers, underwriters, and providers of third-party due diligence services to prepare for the changes resulting from the new requirements.

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