Liquidators of Bear Stearns Hedge Funds Accuse Rating Agencies of Fraud

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On November 12, the liquidators for two Bear Stearns overseas hedge funds filed their complaint against McGraw Hill, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch (collectively the rating agencies) in an action in New York Supreme Court alleging that fraudulent ratings led to over $1 billion in losses for the funds’ investors. According to the complaint, the funds invested in a portfolio of high-grade structured finance products, including CDOs and RMBS, where “at least 90% had the highest rating available,” and therefore depended heavily on ratings in making investment decisions. The complaint alleges that the rating agencies knew that the ratings assigned to the securities in which the funds invested were false. Plaintiffs claim that the rating agencies lacked independence from the issuers of the securities and that their ratings were tainted by a desire to maintain market share in a profitable industry. The funds also allege that the rating agencies used relaxed standards in their initial ratings and subsequently failed to conduct proper ongoing surveillance of rated securities, leading to delays in downgrading ratings for allegedly faulty securities. The liquidators initially commenced the action in July through New York’s summons with notice procedure. Complaint.