The Permanent Representatives Committee today approved a compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on 27 November on proposals amending the EU’s rules on credit rating agencies. This will enable the presidency to confirm the agreement reached with the Parliament and allow for adoption of the legislation at first reading.
The proposals for a directive and a regulation set out to amend existing legislation on credit rating agencies (CRAs) in order to reduce investors‘ over-reliance on external credit ratings, mitigate the risk of conflicts of interest in credit rating activities and increase transparency and competition in the sector.
Specifically, the draft directive amends current directives on undertakings of collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS) and on alternative investment funds managers (AIFM) in order to reduce these funds‘ reliance on external credit ratings when assessing the creditworthiness of their assets.
The draft regulation introduces a mandatory rotation rule forcing issuers of structured finance products with underlying re-securitised assets who pay CRAs for their ratings („issuer pays model“) to switch to a different agency every four years. An outgoing CRA would not be allowed to rate re-securitised products of the same issuer for a period equal to the duration of the expired contract, though not exceeding four years.
But mandatory rotation would not apply to small CRAs, or to issuers employing at least four CRAs each rating more than 10% of the total number of outstanding rated structured finance instruments.
A review clause provides the possibility for mandatory rotation to be extended to other instruments in the future. Mandatory rotation would not be a requirement for the endorsement and equivalence assessment of third country CRAs.
Due to the complexity of structured finance instruments and their role in contributing to the financial crisis, the draft regulation also requires issuers to engage at least two different CRAs for the rating of structured finance instruments.
To mitigate the risk of conflicts of interest, the proposal would require CRAs to disclose publicly if a shareholder with 5% or more of the capital or voting rights holds 5% or more of a rated entity, and would prohibit a shareholder of a CRA with 10% or more of the capital or voting rights from holding 10% or more of a rated entity.
And to ensure the diversity and independence of credit ratings and opinions, the proposal would prohibit ownership of 5% or more of the capital or the voting rights in more than one CRA, unless the agencies concerned belong to the same group.
Under the rules approved today, investors or issuers would be able to claim damages from a CRA if they suffered a loss due to an infringement committed by the agency intentionally or with gross negligence.
Moreover, sovereign ratings would have to be reviewed at least every six months (rather than every 12 months as currently applicable under general rules).
The draft regulation calls on the Commission to prepare a report by 1 July 2016, reviewing the situation in the credit rating market, and if necessary to follow it up with appropriate legislative proposals on some of the new provisions.