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Former Analyst Claims Moody’s Falsely Inflated Ratings

Robert M. Siegel

Former Moody’s analyst, Ilya Kolchinsky, has accused the credit rating powerhouse of overstating its ratings for countless toxic mortgage-backed securities that caused the financial meltdown in 2008, misleading investors and costing the U.S. billions in funds spent bailing out Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail banks. Kolchinsky’s 107-page False Claims Act complaint, filed in 2012, was recently unsealed after the government failed to intervene.

The complaint alleges that from 2004 to 2007, Moody’s issued inflated ratings, often “triple-A,” for the majority of risky residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations it reviewed, as a result of “concealed conflicts of interest and Moody’s reckless profit-maximization policies.” According to Kolchinsky, it wasn’t until October 2007 when the market started its downward turn that Moody’s began downgrading its ratings.

In a whistleblower-protection suit that Kolchinsky dropped last year, he contended that he was demoted and eventually terminated after he came forward with concerns over Moody’s rating policies for high-risk securities. Specifically, that Moody’s rating methods violated federal securities laws and had lied in registration statements to the SEC. Kolchinsky served as managing director of Moody’s derivative group, before being relegated to a diminished role with fewer responsibilities and reduced pay.

Following Kolchinsky’s termination in September 2009, he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding its probe into the role rating agencies played in the financial crisis. Moody’s denied Kolchinsky’s accusations in the media. Regardless of the outcome of the False Claims Act suit or the merits of Kolchinsky’s allegations, we have long thought that the question of whether inflated ratings were issued by credit rating agencies, and the effect on the economic collapse of 2008 seems to have been largely overlooked in the inevitable finger pointing that occurred in its aftermath.

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