Rating Agency Fees: Pay to Play in Public Finance?

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Abstract

We examine the relationship between credit rating levels and rating agency fees in a public finance market in which rating agencies earn lower fees and face higher disclosure requirements relative to corporate bond and structured finance markets. Controlling for variation in the complexity of credit analysis at the issue level, we find evidence that rating agency conflicts of interest distort credit ratings in the municipal bond market. Unexpectedly expensive ratings are more likely downgraded, and inexpensive ratings are more likely upgraded. The relationship between credit ratings and rating agency fees is driven by issuers who lose access to AAA insurance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2004-2045
Number of pages42
JournalReview of Financial Studies
Volume36
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics

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