As part of a landmark multi-state settlement where federal prosecutors said Standard & Poor's Financial Services had inflated its ratings of mortgage-backed securities at the height of the great recession, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced this morning that Idaho will collect $21.5 million. S&P's total settlement of $1.38 billion is expected to wipe out its operating profit for about one year.
Wasden had filed Idaho's complaint against S&P, the world's largest credit rating firm, in 2013 after federal prosecutors said the firm had engaged in misleading, false and deceptive practices, starting in 2001 and continuing until 2011.
“For years, S&P made statements emphasizing the independence and objectivity of its rating services,” said Wasden in today's announcement. “These statements were made to investors, regulators, Congress and the public. My lawsuit alleged that these statements were not true.”
However, today's settlement, which is still subject to court approval, included no findings that the company had violated the law.
"I think it is a classic example of a regulatory slap on the wrist," securities lawyer Andrew Stoltmann told USA Today.
"The fine was not punitive enough to deter this sort of conduct in the future."