Eu adopts stricter rules for rating agencies

From spring, stricter rules will apply to Moody’s and Co. in the EU: The rating agencies are to be held liable for false grades and to announce country ratings in advance. The EU Parliament passed the corresponding requirements. For many parliamentarians, however, the measures do not go far enough.

By Martin Bohne, MDR radio studio Brussels

default & Poors, Moodys and Fitch – these three dominating US rating agencies are for many the black sheep in the financial and debt crisis. The allegations: You had given dangerous junk papers top marks. And they would again and again at the wrong time and unjustifiably lower the creditworthiness of ailing euro countries – with potentially dramatic consequences: the worse the rating, the higher interest rates the debtor states usually have to offer for fresh loans.

"Fire accelerators" – this is how the social democratic MEP Udo Bullman calls these three agencies. "By issuing ratings before each summit, where states are either beaten up for not saving or for saving too much and then manipulating the markets hand in hand with the relevant investment bankers," he says.

Taking more responsibility

Now reins are to be put on the self-importance of the big rating agencies: "We are restricting their ability to make themselves economic players who benefit from the fact that they issue non-transparent ratings," says Bullmann.

For example, in which the rating agencies are made more accountable for mistakes. For the CSU politician Ferber, this is the core message of the new regulation: "That means, incorrect ratings can also be complained about. Rating agencies must also take responsibility if they have deliberately given false information to lead to bad investments. I think that is a crucial one Period. Because only those who accept liability will receive serious marks. "

Establish and disclose ratings

In addition, the agencies must better justify their ratings and disclose the criteria for awarding grades. In the future, companies will no longer be allowed to hold larger shares in the agencies that they allow themselves to be assessed. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed: "That you make it clear who your client is," says Ferber. "It cannot be that I buy myself a good rating."

In future, special rules will apply to assessing the creditworthiness of EU countries. In order to prevent nervous market reactions, these ratings may only be published three times a year and on dates announced in advance. And then only outside of stock exchange trading hours.

"This means that it is more difficult for rating agencies to issue a negative rating again shortly before a critical summit, where one has the impression that it is determined less by the economy than by political wishes," says Sven Giegold, the financial expert of the Greens.

The big hit is missing

But the MEPs have no illusions. The measures decided are a step forward, but not a great success. Above all, Giegold regrets that the negotiations with the member states failed to break the dominance of the three US agencies. "The basic problem is: Why do three large private actors have so much market power? That is, if an actor changes an opinion that then shifts a market, something like that should not exist in a social market economy."

Demand for an independent agency

Many MEPs therefore wanted an independent European agency to be set up, for example in the form of a public foundation. In the current law, the EU Commission is only asked to explore the possibilities for such an alternative agency.

The social democrat Udo Bullmann also sees the federal government as spoilsport: "I think it is a scandal that we have so little courage among finance ministers, Mr Schauble and his colleagues, to set up an independent European rating agency. We have to rework, that would be the decisive structural break. "

And so Bullmann pleads for an early reform of the reform.