Which Rating Agency Downgraded the U.S. First? Not S&P

The S&P downgrade of U.S. credit has understandably dominated headlines, but S&P was by no means the first mover. At least three other rating agencies had already downgraded the United States.

Egan-Jones was the first Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (NRSRO) to downgrade. It lowered the U.S. rating from AAA to AA+ in mid-July. NRSROs are the companies that the SEC officially recognizes as credit rating agencies. They number ten in total, with Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poors the most famous (or, in some circles, infamous).

Weiss Ratings was the first U.S.-based rating agency to rate the U.S. below AAA. It initiated official coverage in April at the equivalent of BBB and lowered to the equivalent of BBB- in mid-July, just one notch above junk. Back in May 2010, Weiss challenged the three major agencies to downgrade the United States, but hadn’t yet rated the U.S. itself. Weiss is not an NRSRO.

And then there’s Dagong, the Chinese rating agency. It initiated coverage with a AA rating in July 2010. It then cut the U.S. to A+ in November and to A last week.

So who was first?

Weiss if you count its May 2010 announcement that the U.S. ought to be downgraded. Dagong if you go by the first published rating below AAA. And Egan-Jones if you focus on the NRSROs.

Anyway you slice it, though, S&P wasn’t first.

S&P may want to make that point during the inevitable congressional hearings in September. And committee staffers should consider inviting Weiss or Egan-Jones as well.

ht: Dan D. and David M.

P.S. Apologies for the lack of links; I am writing on an iPad today, and it’s a nuisance to add them.

About Donald Marron 294 Articles

Donald Marron is an economist in the Washington, DC area. He currently speaks, writes, and consults about economic, budget, and financial issues.

From 2002 to early 2009, he served in various senior positions in the White House and Congress including: * Member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) * Acting Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) * Executive Director of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee (JEC)

Before his government service, Donald had a varied career as a professor, consultant, and entrepreneur. In the mid-1990s, he taught economics and finance at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He then spent about a year-and-a-half managing large antitrust cases (e.g., Pepsi vs. Coke) at Charles River Associates in Washington, DC. After that, he took the plunge into the world of new ventures, serving as Chief Financial Officer of a health care software start-up in Austin, TX. After that fascinating experience, he started his career in public service.

Donald received his Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his B.A. in Mathematics a couple miles down the road at Harvard.

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