Standard & Poor’s misled investors, Australian court says

Less than a month after dropping the credit rating of Grenada, the credit rating agency, Standard & Poor’s credibility has come into question.

A judge in Australia has delivered a ruling that can have serious implications for Standard & Poor’s for allegedly misleading investors.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces an article from the BBC on the judge’s ruling:

Perth, Australia — An Australian court has ruled that S&P and ABN Amro Bank should pay damages Australia’s Federal Court has ruled that credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) misled investors before the global financial crisis.

S&P gave its safest credit rating, AAA, to complex and risky securities, which later lost most of their value.

In what is regarded as a landmark ruling, the court ordered S&P and the bank which arranged the product, ABN Amro, to pay damages to investors. S&P said it planned to appeal against the decision.

“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision, we reject any suggestion our opinions were inappropriate, and we will appeal the Australian ruling, which relates to a specific CPDO rating,” S&P, one of the world’s big three ratings agencies, said in a statement.

The ruling is the first of its kind on a rating agency’s liability for investors’ losses.

Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot said that S&P was “misleading and deceptive” in its rating of two structured debt issues in 2006, which she described as “grotesquely complicated”.

The case was brought against S&P and ABN Amro Bank by several Australian local governments which lost millions when the value of the investments was virtually wiped out during the financial crisis.

Judge Jagot said S&P and ABN Amro would have to pay 30m Australian dollars ($31m; £19m) in damages to the authorities.

IMF Australia, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange which funds legal claims, said the ruling was “likely to have global implications and be felt hardest in Europe and the US, where similar products were sold to banks and pension funds”.

The firm said this could pave the way for investors in Europe to recover significant losses from both S&P and ABN Amro, which is now owned by Royal Bank of Scotland.

It estimates that 2bn euros ($2.6bn; £1.6bn) of the same sort of financial products, called CPDOs or constant proportion debt obligations, were sold in Europe.

“Today’s court ruling will enable the councils to recover a significant proportion of their losses that will now be available to provide services for their communities,” said IMF Australia director John Walker.

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