Europe to soften rules over credit rating agencies

Julian Harris
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BRUSSELS will water down moves to force firms to rotate which credit rating agencies they use to evaluate their debt, it emerged yesterday.

Yet the European parliament also voted in favour of new restraints on the ability of rating agencies to downgrade its member governments.

Under new plans, agencies will only be able to announce changes to sovereign debt ratings on EU countries two or three times a year, on pre-arranged fixed dates.

“The debt crisis in the Eurozone has shown that credit rating agencies have gained too much influence, to the point of being able to influence the political agenda,” said Leonardo Domenici, a European parliament member for Italy.

Nonetheless, the parliament has softened measures related to companies’ use of the agencies. An initial plan for ratings agencies to be rotated or switched every three years will be weakened to apply only to very specific types of credit and only every five years, the source said.

The new rules may only apply to the ratings on structured products such as asset-backed securities – a significant climbdown from the EU’s originally drafted plans.