EU fines Moody’s for failing to disclose conflicts of interests

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The European Union’s markets watchdog said on Tuesday it has fined credit ratings firm Moody’s 3.7 million euros ($4.35 million) for breaching rules including the failure to disclose conflicts of interests.

All the breaches resulted from negligence on the part of the company, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said, adding that the fine was for five Moody’s entities based in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain.

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ESMA said Moody’s had inadequate internal policies and procedures to manage shareholder conflicts of interest. The breaches took place between 2013 and 2017, it said.

“ESMA found that MIS (Moody’s Investors Service) had no intent to infringe the EU regulation and there was no impact on the quality of any ratings,” a Moody’s spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters.

Moody’s, one of the three largest credit ratings agencies alongside S&P Global and Fitch, added that the regulator had recognized the steps it has taken to prevent similar infringements in the future.

ESMA said the breaches were of a rule that prevents agencies from issuing ratings on companies in which they own 10 percent or more of its shares, or where they have a board position.

The regulator fined Fitch 5.1 million euros a couple of years ago for similar breaches.

“ESMA believes it is crucial, to ensure independent good quality ratings and to protect investors, that (ratings agencies) carefully identify and subsequently eliminate or manage and disclose conflicts of interest to avoid interference by shareholders with the rating process,” the watchdog said.

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