Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Australian Judge Sees the Light, Rules Against S&P

Felix Salmon has a good post saluting Jayne Jagot. The Australian judge (color me amazed) actually took the time to understand what was going on with CPDO securitizations that Standard & Poor's rated AAA and that later tanked. Once she did, she was a bit horrified, one gathers. She ruled that S&P must pay damages to the suckers investors that believed its ratings were professionally derived in good faith.

Here's the "why it matters":
The coverage of the decision (Quartz, FT, WSJ, Bloomberg, Reuters) concentrates, as it should, on the hugely important precedent being set here: that a ratings agency — in this case, S&P — is being found liable for losses that an investor suffered after trusting that agency.
Jagot found that S&P wasn't even "reasonably competent" (actually, the insinuation is they were grossly incompetent). Her decision spans a numbing 635,000 words (context: an average longish novel runs about 100,000).

The upshot: S&P never bothered to develop its own models or assumptions; it just lazily accepted what it was fed by its "boss" (ABN Amro, which paid for the ratings).

One of my favorite parts of the post was actually post-post, in the comment section:
Very good article. The question that you don’t ask is: why is an Australian judge the first to do this research, and what have the SEC and FSA been doing for the last five years?
Indeed.