MEPs call for more transparency in sovereign debt rating

At the meeting the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs held on 20 December, MEPs called for higher transparency in the process of sovereign debt rating. They also advocated for the establishment of measures to reduce the dependence on the three major agencies and recommended to assess potential conflicts of interest between the agencies and the companies they evaluate.

Parliament's rapporteurs at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee proposed to increase competition among debt rating agencies. Although there are currently over one hundred national and regional rating agencies, the “big three” keep on having a market share of 95%. According to MEPs this could be alleviated if small agencies could gain credibility by being eligible to register with the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). In addition, they could also use data from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for this analysis.

Members of the Commission stressed that it is essential to increase the transparency regarding sovereign debt rating, ensuring this level of transparency both for the criteria and fro data used for qualification. Also, in MEPs view, while Member States which are rated should have more time to prepare their comments, these ratings should be done more frequently. More regular rating with clearer underlying data would help to restore investor confidence in the markets.

Finally, following the approach already proposed by the Parliament in a resolution on the debt rating agencies voted in plenary session in June 2011, MEPs consider that it is necessary to address the relationships which sometimes exist between rating agencies and the companies they are rating. Ensuring greater transparency and reliability in these relationships will be essential, especially because of its impact on financial markets.