Under Attack, Credit Raters Turn to the First Amendment

October 28, 2009
HuffPost Investigative Fund By Ben Protess and Lagan Sebert
© 2009 huffingtonpost.com

Editor's note: This is the first of three articles by the Investigative Fund on the credit rating companies. To help with the investigation, sign up here

For two decades, the nation's top credit rating agencies have managed to fend off a crackdown from Washington by relying on a surprising ally - the First Amendment.

Despite their key role in the most recent economic calamity, the three big bond raters--Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch--seem poised to do it again. With help from two of the most storied constitutional lawyers in the country, the raters have successfully argued that when they make a mistake -- say, awarding the top triple-A grade to a multibillion-dollar bundle of bonds that later default -- they cannot be sued or held accountable.

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