Justice delayed might be not be justice denied, but as far as many regular U.S. citizens are concerned it seems justice was denied when it came to bad behavior during the credit crisis. The U.S. Department of Justice has just gotten around to charging McGraw Hill Companies Inc.’s (NYSE: MHP) S&P for the role it played in the credit collapse that threatened the financial world in 2008.
The mischief took place between 2004 and 2007. Senate hearings and other court actions seemed to clear the way for federal and state officials to act against the three large credit rating agencies, which also include Fitch and Moody’s Corp. (NYSE: MCO), a long time ago
At the core of the action, according to the Justice Department, are charges that have been leveled against the credit ratings agencies for years, although not formally by federal and state prosecutors. In the announcement of the legal action, Justice officials stated:
As S.&P. knew, contrary to its representations to the public, S.&P.’s desire for increased revenue and market share in the RMBS and CDO ratings markets, and its resulting desire to maintain and enhance its relationships with issuers that drove its ratings business, improperly influenced S.&P. to downplay and disregard the true extent of the credit risks.
When all was said and done, greed was at the heart of the matter.
One of the things that average people who pay taxes need to know is why so much of the sophisticated financial activity that nearly killed the U.S. economy four years ago has gone unpunished, even though many of these activities have been carefully examined repeatedly. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department have not made a single comment or excuse about these delays, which represents a flaw in the system. What the government knows now it has known for a long time.
The cases against S&P will go on, perhaps for months, as will actions against Moody’s and Fitch. That means no judgment, fines or worse punishments will be rendered until 2014. Perhaps they may barely be rendered at all if there are settlements. Americans got gored, and the government is just coming around to admitting that and doing something about it.