The global financial crisis has served to highlight serious weaknesses in global governance, revealing fault lines in the international financial architecture and its accompanying regulatory apparatus. Most glaringly, the spotlight has fallen on Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs)—key governance agencies in the pre-crisis domestic and international regulatory structures, and ones directly linked to the subprime mortgage debacle. The aim of this article is to provide a critical appraisal of CRAs as a mechanism of global governance in the light of their role in the subprime mortgage debacle and to evaluate the case for stricter regulation of CRAs. In this respect, special emphasis is placed on the recent EU attempt—by way of a new Regulation on Credit Rating Agencies—to bring rating agencies within the regulatory fold. It is argued that while the EU Regulation has serious implications for the operation of CRAs within the Community, the reform measure is potentially illustrative of a growing dissonance between EU and US responses to global governance issues more generally.
‘[Securitisation led to the belief among many that] poor quality assets … assembled as a portfolio … could somehow by alchemy be converted into something stronger than they were’.1
‘The crap had become cake.’2
‘In January 2008, there were 12 triple A-rated companies in the world. At the same time, there were 64,000 structured finance instruments, like CDO tranches, rated triple A.’3