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$864m settlement with Moody’s arising from conduct in lead up to financial crisis

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Staff Writer | January 14, 2017
Moody’s
Crisis   Providing credit ratings

The Department of Justice, 21 states, and the District of Columbia reached a nearly $864 million settlement agreement with Moody’s Investors Service Inc., Moody’s Analytics Inc., and their parent, Moody’s Corporation, the Department announced.

The settlement resolves allegations arising from Moody’s role in providing credit ratings for Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO), contributing to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The agreement resolves pending state court lawsuits in Connecticut, Mississippi, and South Carolina, as well as potential claims by the Justice Department, 18 states and the District of Columbia.

The settlement follows an investigation by the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey into potential claims pursuant to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) and investigations conducted by various State Attorneys General pursuant to state law.

"Moody’s failed to adhere to its own credit rating standards and fell short on its pledge of transparency in the run-up to the Great Recession," said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer.  "Today’s settlement contains not only a significant penalty and factual admissions of its conduct, but also a commitment by Moody’s to new and continued compliance measures designed to ensure the integrity of credit ratings going forward."

"Our investigation revealed, and Moody’s has now acknowledged, that Moody’s used a more lenient standard than it had itself published," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

"Investors relied on Moody’s credit ratings to be objective and independent, and they naturally expected Moody’s to follow its own published methods."

"Moody’s touted a particularly robust analytical framework for rating RMBS and CDOs," said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey. "Moody’s now admits that it deviated from its methodologies and failed to disclose those changes to the public.

People making decisions on how to invest their money thought they could rely on the ratings Moody’s assigned to these products. When securities are not rated openly and honestly, individual investors suffer, as does confidence in all parts of the financial sector."


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