Last Thursday, The Washington Post ran a story about the Congressional hearing of the credit-rating agencies. In the coverage of that hearing, two quotes were often cited.
One was an instant messaging conversation:
In April, 2007, Shannon Mooney, a senior analyst at rating agency Standard & Poor’s in New York, started gossiping with a colleague via instant messaging when the conversation turned to a rating the firm was about to issue.
“That deal is ridiculous,” the colleague, Rahul Shah, wrote.
“I know right … model def. does not capture half of the [risk],” Ms. Mooney replied.
“We should not be rating it,” Mr. Shah said.
“We rate every deal,” Ms. Mooney wrote. “It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”
The Globe and Mail was the only publication I found that named the parties to this conversation.
The other exchange was also revealing.
Other credit-raters took a more whimsical tone in describing the risks of mortgage-backed securities. “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters,” a high-ranking official at Standard and Poor’s wrote in December 2006.
Many publications, including The Washington Post, reported the email exchange.
I was curious as to why these publications seem so reluctant to name the people demonstrating such irresponsibility. People that we taxpyers are now being asked to bailout. So I wrote to the Post reporter and asked who it was. In an email, Paley responded:
I believe it was Chris Meyer.
Do you work at one of the credit-rating agencies?
I don’t know if Paley meant that a Chris Meyer told the reporter of the quote or whether Meyer was the one who made the “house of cards” comment.
I wrote back for clarification and not getting an answer within a day, I wrote to Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell and asked what where The Post’s guidelines were for naming people who are quoted. I received no answer.
I asked for the simple reason is that I’ve noticed over the years that embarrassing quotes made by powerful people are often reported without naming the person. It’s as if The Post wants to protect the rich and famous from embarassment. Certianly, if that person is widely known, I imagine his or her friends would see them in a differnt light — as the callous and careless people they are…if not criminals.