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Capital Markets

Regulators move in on hardwiring

In July 2010 the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law in the US, bringing in a whole host of new controls for credit rating agencies, and in particular a requirement to remove certain statutory references to credit ratings. It also required all federal agencies to review and modify regulations to remove references to or reliance upon credit ratings and substitute an alternative standard of creditworthiness. There have been various permutations to this recently, including in June 2012 the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency publishing final rules and guidance relating to removing ratings from its regulations on investment securities, securities offerings, and foreign bank capital equivalency deposits. On investment securities, the OCC said, "banks may not exclusively rely on external credit ratings, but they may continue to use such ratings as part of their determinations". It added that in judging what is "investment grade", banks do not have to use external ratings, and they may rely on other sources of information, such as internal systems or analytics provided by third parties.

In Europe, the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Finance Ministers are pursuing a similar outcome in reducing investors’ reliance on credit ratings by eliminating references to ratings in government regulations, as part of a broader push to tighten rules surrounding credit ratings adopted in 2009 and 2010.