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The role of ratings in the subprime mortgage crisis: The art of corporate and the science of consumer credit rating

Markets on Trial: The Economic Sociology of the U.S. Financial Crisis: Part A

ISBN: 978-0-85724-205-1, eISBN: 978-0-85724-206-8

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 9 July 2010

Abstract

Both consumer and corporate credit ratings agencies played a major role in the US subprime mortgage crisis. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion deployed a formalized scoring system to assess individuals in mortgage origination, mortgage pools then were assessed for securitization by Moody's, S&P, and Fitch relying on expert judgment aided by formal models. What can we learn about the limits of formalization from the crisis? We discuss five problems responsible for the rating failures – reactivity, endogeneity, learning, correlated outcomes, and conflict of interest – and compare the way consumer and corporate rating agencies tackled these difficulties. We conclude with some policy lessons.

Citation

Rona-Tas, A. and Hiss, S. (2010), "The role of ratings in the subprime mortgage crisis: The art of corporate and the science of consumer credit rating", Lounsbury, M. and Hirsch, P.M. (Ed.) Markets on Trial: The Economic Sociology of the U.S. Financial Crisis: Part A (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 30 Part A), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 115-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X(2010)000030A008

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited