Better late than never? The Justice Department and state prosecutors are planning to file civil charges against Standard & Poor’s for its rating of risky mortgage bonds before the financial crisis, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. If true, the move will be the first federal action against a credit-rating firm in connection with the 2008 meltdown, though the high grades the firms gave to subprime mortgage bonds precipitated the crisis. The charges come after settlement talks between S&P and the Justice Department broke down and reportedly focus on the models S&P used to rate mortgage bonds.
The lawsuit against the McGraw-Hill Cos unit focuses on its ratings in 2007 of various U.S. collateralized debt obligations (CDO), S&P said.
It would be the first federal enforcement action against a credit rating agency over alleged illegal behavior tied to the financial crisis.
"A DOJ lawsuit would be entirely without factual or legal merit," S&P said in a statement. "The DOJ would be wrong in contending that S&P ratings were motivated by commercial considerations and not issued in good faith."
Once again, this is only a civil suit. No criminal charges from the DOJ for any corporation involved in the mortgage crisis, those seem to be reserved only for those of more modest means who enjoy smoking some herb now and again -- or heaven forfend, growing a plant.