Policy brief

Rate expectations: what can and cannot be done about rating agencies

Nicolas Veron scrutinizes the current European debate about credit rating agencies. He warns against restricting the agencies’ freedom of expressi

Publishing date
31 October 2011
Nicolas Véron

Credit rating agencies have been under the spotlight since the beginning of the current financial crisis. They failed in their assessment of US residential mortgage- based securities in the mid-2000s. Nevertheless, investors generally consider credit ratings useful to help form their views on credit risks.

The global market for credit ratings is very concentrated, ostensibly as a consequence of high natural barriers to entry. All three leading rating agencies have headquarter functions in the US, but there is no compelling evidence that this has created an analytical bias.

Tighter regulation of rating agencies can be envisaged but is unlikely to have a material positive effect on ratings quality. Better standardised public disclosures on risk factors by issuers are the most promising avenue for future improvements in credit risk assessments.

This Policy Contribution is based on a briefing note for the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

About the authors

  • Nicolas Véron

    Nicolas Véron is a senior fellow at Bruegel and at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC. His research is mostly about financial systems and financial reform around the world, including global financial regulatory initiatives and current developments in the European Union. He was a cofounder of Bruegel starting in 2002, initially focusing on Bruegel’s design, operational start-up and development, then on policy research since 2006-07. He joined the Peterson Institute in 2009 and divides his time between the US and Europe.

    Véron has authored or co-authored numerous policy papers that include banking supervision and crisis management, financial reporting, the Eurozone policy framework, and economic nationalism. He has testified repeatedly in front of committees of the European Parliament, national parliaments in several EU member states, and US Congress. His publications also include Smoke & Mirrors, Inc.: Accounting for Capitalism, a book on accounting standards and practices (Cornell University Press, 2006), and several books in French.

    His prior experience includes working for Saint-Gobain in Berlin and Rothschilds in Paris in the early 1990s; economic aide to the Prefect in Lille (1995-97); corporate adviser to France’s Labour Minister (1997-2000); and chief financial officer of MultiMania / Lycos France, a publicly-listed online media company (2000-2002). From 2002 to 2009 he also operated an independent Paris-based financial consultancy.

    Véron is a board member of the derivatives arm (Global Trade Repository) of the Depositary Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), a financial infrastructure company that operates globally on a not-for-profit basis. A French citizen born in 1971, he has a quantitative background as a graduate from Ecole Polytechnique (1992) and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris (1995). He is trilingual in English, French and Spanish, and has fluent understanding of German and Italian.

    In September 2012, Bloomberg Markets included Véron in its second annual 50 Most Influential list with reference to his early advocacy of European banking union.


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