AG Harris Takes on S&P

Big California pension firms lost billions

by Brian Leubitz

A few days ago, I wrote about S&P upgrading California's credit rating. As I mentioned then, the arbitrariness of the ratings is troubling. Somehow California bonds are a worse investment than a series of subprime mortgage bonds circa 2007. Yes, those bonds were getting AAA ratings, while California is begging for a single A.

Turns out, that those sketchy AAA ratings hurt the state in another way: our pension funds lost big on investments made based on the notion that they were AAA rated. AG Kamala Harris, after working with the federal government on their lawsuit, announced that the state would be suing S&P as well.

Attorney General Kamala Harris today sued S&P, saying its "intentionally corrupted" ratings process cost CalPERS and CalSTRS a combined $1.36 billion.

Harris' lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court said the two pension funds relied on the "AAA" ratings assigned to securities by S&P.(SacBee

Ultimately, this is just one small portion of the larger discussion of what role the credit ratings agencies will play in our future. During the height of the financial bubble, their power and relationships both strayed into questionable realms. Dodd-Frank made some changes, but one suspects that such a field will never really be done evolving.

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