ratings agencies

S&P Downgrades Berkshire Hathaway Rating

Standard & Poor's cut a major rating for Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, saying the move better reflects the company's dependence on its core insurance operations.

Moody's Downgrades UK Rating From AAA to AA1

Credit ratings agency Moody's Investors Service downgraded Britain's government bond rating one notch from the top AAA to AA1 Friday, citing weaknesses in the economy's medium-term outlook. Moody's said "subdued" growth prospects and a "high and rising debt burden" were weighing on the British economy.

S&P Expects U.S. Lawsuit Over Its Mortgage Ratings

The U.S. government is expected to file civil charges against Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, alleging that it improperly gave high ratings to mortgage debt that later plunged in value and helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis.

Why You Need to Be Your Own Stock Analyst

Sell-side analysts are often criticized for acting too slowly when it come to downgrading companies and lowering estimates. That means if you rely on the experts, you'll be reacting late too.

Bank of America Sued for Countrywide's Mortgage Sins, Again

On Monday, a group of institutional investors sued Countrywide and Bank of America over Countrywide's mortgages practices. The bank is accused of issuing vast numbers of loans using methods that went beyond lax standards and into fraud, with the sole goal of repackaging them into securities to resell with inflated ratings.

The Mortgage Mess: Blame Banks, Not Homeowners

After an exhaustive examination, DailyFinance's legal reporter comes to a clear verdict: Banks are responsible for 90% of the problem, homeowners 10%. Banks have done three things to create the massive glut of foreclosures choking America's legal systems and laying waste to its real estate markets.

Flawed Incentives Were the Rot Behind the Mortgage Crisis

The mortgage-backed securities meltdown whose effects still haunt our economy sprang from a simple cause: The rules of the game gave big incentives to every player involved to ignore the problems and keep collecting their fees. And despite financial reform, those rules haven't changed much.

Legal Briefing: Need a Job? Sue Over Patent Marking

In Wednesday's legal news, the Texas Attorney General has appealed a judge's decision to grant a divorce to two men who were married out of state; the SEC vows to pursue overseas ratings fraud; and companies that incorrectly claim their products are patented can be sued for $500 per product.

Legal Briefing: Dell Settles with the SEC for $100 Million

According to the SEC lawsuit that Dell just settled for $100 million, Dell cooked its books from 2002 to 2006 by using "exclusivity" payments from Intel totaling $4.3 billion to inflate its revenue numbers and otherwise fraudulently meet Wall Street analysts' expectations.

A Wall Street Lawyer's Take on Financial Reform

Winthrop Brown, a Washington lawyer who lobbies on behalf of financial services firms, says the new regulations should get fairly high marks from Wall Street -- and from Main Street. But will they prevent another economic meltdown?

Legal Briefing: iPhone Lawsuit Moves Forward

An antitrust class action against Apple and AT&T is going forward, charging that Apple's five-year exclusive agreement with AT&T makes a sham of the two-year contracts iPhone users sign with AT&T and is part of an effort to monopolize the iPhone market.

Derivatives Played "No Role" in Financial Crisis?

At the Financial Services Inquiry Commission hearing, former Wall Street derivatives executive Steven Kohlhagen claimed derivatives generally played "no role" in causing the financial crisis. This puzzling argument doesn't pass the straight-face test.

The EU Tries to Curb the Ratings Agencies

European proposals aimed at better oversight of the ratings agencies will create a EU-wide watchdog to license and oversee the big three, taking these duties from member nations. But critics say the proposals don't go far enough.

Legal Briefing: What Crimes Might the BP Probe Include?

Among today's legal news, the BP criminal BP probe is underway, Judge Rakoff issues his opinion explaining his dismissal of claims against the ratings agencies, and a study finds that Southern juries are still overwhelmingly white.

Ratings Agencies Brace for Financial Reform

The details may yet change, but the massive financial reform legislation now winding around Capitol Hill promises to seriously rearrange the rating agencies' formerly cozy and profitable business. Here's a look at what's coming.

Banks Rake in Big Profits as Wall Street Probes Spread

Proliferating probes into Wall Street's activities don't seem to be hindering big banks' ability to make huge profits. Plus, in the roundup of latest legal news: A banker is suing JPMorgan Chase, claiming it fired her when she did the right thing.

Legal Briefing: Will Big Banks Pay Over Misleading Ratings?

MBIA has sued Merrill Lynch because the CDOs on which Merrill bought insurance from MBIA were AAA-rated junk. MBIA says Merrill knew the CDOs didn't deserve the top rating at the time it insured them. If this case succeeds, big banks may find dud ratings very expensive.

Can an EU-TARP Buffer the World From Europe's Crisis?

The financial crisis that started with overly indebted Greece is spreading rapidly to engulf Spain, Portugal, and European Union banks. The world may need a TARP-like rescue effort to contain Europe's contagion.

Legal Briefing: Judge Rejects Guidant Settlement

A few years ago, medical device manufacturer Guidant failed to report problems with some of its heart defibrillators, a failure which led to at least six deaths. The Justice Department's proposed settlement involved a $296 million fine and a plea to a couple of misdemeanors, which a federal judge has deemed too light a punishment.

McGraw-Hill Books Quarterly Profit after Tough 2009

Education publisher McGraw-Hill looks to have recovered from a particularly bruising 2009, posting a profit of $103.3 million, or 33 cents a share, up 65% from $63 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier.

Will the Teflon Ratings Agencies Start Losing Fraud Suits?

Given the stories of inflated ratings leading unsuspecting investors to ruin, you'd think lawsuits against the credit raters would be slam dunks. But no. So far, the ratings agencies are undefeated. Here's why -- and why that losing streak could be in jeopardy after the latest revelations before Congress last week.