We ask whether credit rating agencies receive higher fees and gain greater market share when they provide more favorable ratings. We investigate this issue using Fitch and Moody’s 2010 recalibration of their rating scales, which increased ratings in the absence of any underlying change in issuer credit quality.

Consistent with concerns raised by critics of the issuer pay model, we find that compared to S&P, the governmental entities rated by Moody’s and Fitch received better ratings, were charged higher fees, and issued bonds with lower yields after the recalibration event. This recalibration also led to increases in Fitch and Moody’s market share.

Overall the results are consistent with concerns that issuers will pay more for higher ratings.

By: Anne Beatty, Ohio State University (OSU) – Department of Accounting & Management Information Systems, Jacquelyn Riddick Gillette, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Sloan School of Management, Reining Petacchi, Georgetown University – Department of Accounting and Business Law, and Joseph Weber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Sloan School of Management

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