From Washington, D.C. to Wall Street, all eyes have been on the rating agency Standard & Poor’s and its controversial downgrade of U.S. government debt.
Three thousand miles away in Westlake Village, J.D. Power & Associates, which also operates under the McGraw Hill umbrella, issues important and influential ratings with far less controversy. Over the years, J.D. Power has taken heat, particularly from U.S. automakers that didn’t like its assessment that Japanese carmakers were taking the lead in quality. More than anything else, J.D. Power has built a reputation for impeccable accuracy in its ratings, and although its plaques are the mark of excellence for quality, the company itself remains far from the spotlight.
That’s the problem with S&P. Its failure to accurately assess the credit quality of Enron, Lehman Brothers and billions of dollars in mortgage securities has made it the subject of countless stories and even congressional investigations. By thrusting itself into the middle of the budget debate, S&P has made a bold attempt to restore its image. But it also has repeated a mistake that could prove fatal to its future — once again it is S&P and its methodology that is the subject of the story.