Accusations of bullying tactics and misleading reports only hold, it seems, if Dick Cheney is involved. The big three are in the hot seat, and this time, they flew commercial. We’re not talking automakers (actually, we should say benefit providers for union workers that make cars on the side). Rather, the big three rating agencies — Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch. The ones that laughably approved triple-A rated subprime mortgage-backed securities — an oxymoron if there ever was one. On the day Ken Lewis resigns for accepting a deal he couldn’t refuse, the sweetheart deals the three rating agencies enjoy with the government are, if anything, strengthened. Despite testimony about bullying corporate cultures and massaged rating reports, Congress reaffirmed their Nationally Recognized Statistical Ratings Organizations (NRSROs) status.
And leave it to Barney Frank to blow it again (no comments, please). With an opportunity to institute real reform within the agencies, or at least their interactions with government, the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts does next to nothing. Maybe that’s because the rating agencies, by their actions, were a major enabler for policies Frank championed, and a major reason for the mess in which we now find ourselves. But of course, no real accountability will come to Congress, and no accountability at all will come to companies close to Congress. We seemed to have learned nothing. Quid-pro quo, political back-scratching, call it what you will. But ultimately it’s just more of the same.