Moody’s Investors Can Pursue Securities Fraud Class Action Lawsuit Accusing the Credit Rating Agency of Falsely Claiming Independence

A US District Court judge says Moody’s Corp. investors can go ahead in part with a lawsuit accusing the credit rating agency of securities fraud. The class action lawsuit accuses Moody’s of claiming it was an independent body that impartially published accurate financial instrument ratings when such misrepresentations artificially inflated its stock price (until media reports about its compromised objectivity caused the value of its stocks to drop).

In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Shirley Wohl Kram said the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the credit rating agency’s statements over its independence were false. She did find deficiencies with other pleadings, however, including a failure to properly plead scienter against Michael Kanef, the group managing director of Moody’s US asset finance group, and Brian Clarkson, Moody’s chief operating officer. The court also approved the plaintiffs’ request that they be allowed to cure the pleading deficiencies.

The court also said that it did not consider Moody’s statements about its independence to be inactionable puffery. Moody had declared independence and made a list of verifiable actions it executed to make sure it continued to stay independent. However, other specifics, the court said, were not actionable, including statements about the meaning of structured finance securities or that its structured finance revenues came from legitimate business practices.

The court said that the plaintiffs’ class action case survives the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Credit Rating Agencies
It is the job of credit rating agencies to help manage financial market risk. CRA’s are responsible for publishing creditworthiness evaluations about their clients. These evaluations not only help in the assessment of credit risk but they are important for regulation.

Related Web Resources:
Moody’s Must Defend Investor Suit Over Independence,, February 23, 2009
Shareholder lawsuit vs Moody’s allowed to proceed,, February 23, 2009

Contact our securities fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas, LLP today.