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Fitch Ratings and S&P to Consider Counterparty Risk Measurement Changes

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Ahead of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) roundtable on the 15 April, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings have both indicated that they are considering changes to the way they assess counterparty risks for certain structured products. The SEC is due to scrutinise the practices of the ratings agencies later this month and is likely to come down hard on what it sees as failures to adequately assess risk.

Accordingly, the ratings agencies due to participate in the roundtable have been keen to steal a march on the regulator and implement some changes prior to the event. Fitch is currently seeking comment from the industry about its proposals for asset backed securities in particular, which would require counterparties to put up more collateral against losses and therefore prevent lower rated institutions from taking on the role.

Under the proposals, counterparties would be required to set aside cash throughout the lifetime of an asset backed bond to cover the potential cost of finding a replacement. These counterparties may also need to attain the highest credit ratings or gain government backing, the proposals suggest.

The firm is keen to engage in a “dialogue with the market” about these proposals, which will drastically reduce the number of eligible counterparties for these products, according to Stuart Jennings, managing director in the European structured finance group at Fitch Ratings in London. Fitch has asked for feedback to its proposals this month, after which time it will publish its final requirements.

Fitch has indicated it may also extend its counterparty risk requirements for covered bonds in line with the requirements for asset backed securities.

S&P is engaged in a similar endeavour, although it has thus far only announced an assessment of counterparty risk for asset backed securities. The review period began in October last year.

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