The SEC examined all 10 firms registered Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (.pdf 23 pages) and found all 10 had “apparent failures”. The SEC has requested remediation plans from each of the agencies within 30 days and is continuing its investigation.
The issues found included “apparent failures in some instances to follow ratings methodologies and procedures, to make timely and accurate disclosures, to establish effective internal control structures for the rating process and to adequately manage conflicts of interest.”
In 2006, the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act granted the authority to establish a registration and oversight program for credit rating agencies to the SEC and gave them oversight over those credit rating agencies that register with the Commission as Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (“NRSROs”). However, it expressly prohibits the SEC from regulating the substance of credit ratings or the procedures and methodologies by which an NRSRO determines credit ratings.
The SEC did not determine that any finding discussed in this Report constitutes a “material regulatory deficiency”. That would have meant a referral to the Division of Enforcement and gotten more lawyers involved. The SEC does not single out by name any credit-rating agency for questionable actions in the report, but it does describe specific problems it found.
It will be interesting to see what happens next year. As most compliance people know, the failure to fix a problem pointed out by the SEC is likely to lead to trouble the next time they show up.