The Untouchables

August 9, 2011 in Finance

Standard & Poor's is the Al Capone of modern financial markets.

For many years, we went along with their protection racket: we paid the firm, and they made sure we knew which investments were safe. They got involved in politics, spending incredible sums to lobby the government for support, and eventually were mandated into perpetuity -- American as apple pie. Like Capone, S&P claimed it were simply serving the public interest: "All [we] do is supply a demand."

Meanwhile, banks were all too happy to pay for AAA ratings, without which they could not distribute their moonshine products.

Then, in 2007, it all started to come apart. Supposedly safe securities began blowing up, harming innocent citizens. The ratings were revealed to be a sham and the bank pipelines dried up. Even the government finally turned on S&P. No one took the firm seriously anymore.

But now we've learned that S&P was merely biding its time. Desperate for attention and chastised by the institutions it helped build, the organization lashed out at its attackers. We've just witnessed the Valentine's Day Massacre. Where is our Eliot Ness?

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