S&P’s First Amendment Defense in Mortgage Backed Security Ratings Case Rejected by Federal Court
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When the bubble burst on the housing market, it triggered a chain reaction in part because of mortgage backed securities issued as investment vehicles. These securities received ratings from agencies like Standard and Poor’s, who have been given the status of “nationally recognized statistical rating organization” or NRSRO by the SEC. In the past rating agencies have been immune from lawsuits based on ratings given to securities under First Amendment protections, absent a showing of malice. Today a federal district court in Manhattan ruled that the First Amendment protection that covers “matters of public concern” do not apply to ratings given out only to private clients and not released to the public at large. Considering the billions of dollars that were lost when these securities collapsed, it seems inevitable that this ruling will open the door to countless additional lawsuits.


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