The Dodd-Frank Anti-Stimulus Bill
The Wall Street Journal reports
The nation's three dominant credit-ratings providers have made an urgent new request of their clients: Please don't use our credit ratings.
The odd plea is emerging as the first consequence of the financial overhaul that is to be signed into law by President Obama on Wednesday. And it already is creating havoc in the bond markets, parts of which are shutting down in response to the request.
Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings are all refusing to allow their ratings to be used in documentation for new bond sales, each said in statements in recent days. Each says it fears being exposed to new legal liability created by the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
The new law will make ratings firms liable for the quality of their ratings decisions, effective immediately. The companies say that, until they get a better understanding of their legal exposure, they are refusing to let bond issuers use their ratings.
That is important because some bonds, notably those that are made up of consumer loans, are required by law to include ratings in their official documentation. That means new bond sales in the $1.4 trillion market for mortgages, autos, student loans and credit cards could effectively shut down.
There have been no new asset-backed bonds put on sale this week, in stark contrast to last week, when $3 billion of issues were sold. Market participants say the new law is partly behind the slowdown.