Bills touted as major overhauls for the actions of credit ratings agencies are little more than a charade, experts say.
"What you see in these bills are Botox shots," Joseph A. Grundfest, a professor of securities law at Stanford Law School, told The New York Times.
"For a little while, everyone is going to be frozen into a grin, and then the shots are going to wear off."
Bills legislators are currently considering would require rating agencies to deal with greater oversight, obey stiffer rules about disclosure and a provision that would make it easier for plaintiffs to sue the firms.
However, legislative analysts say that nothing in the proposed bills would threaten the 85 percent market share that Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch now enjoy.
The rating agencies are facing dozens of lawsuits, including one filed recently by the Ohio attorney general on behalf of public pension funds that seeks billions of dollars in damages and accuses the ratings firms of negligence and fraud.
"We expect that the final bill will pose significant costs and risks to the financial industry," Dan Alamariu, an analyst at research and consulting firm Eurasia Group, told Reuters.
But while Senate Democratic leaders are aiming for final passage in March 2010, Alamariu says a final bill is unlikely before the April-May time frame.
“The still-ongoing healthcare debate and significant differences between the House and the Senate packages that will require conference committee harmonization could push final passage of the package even into mid-2010," he notes.
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