Professor John C. Coffee Jr. Addresses U.N. General Assembly on the Role of Credit Rating Agencies

Panel of International Experts Assesses Regulatory Proposals to Enhance Global Financial Integrity

New York, September 11, 2013—Columbia Law Professor John C. Coffee Jr. addressed the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 10 in a high-level thematic debate on the role of credit rating agencies in the global economy. Coffee, the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law, served as a panelist at the invitation of Assembly President Vuk Jeremić, who convened a discussion of the growing role of agencies that issue credit ratings. 

“Broad references to disclosure or competition will not take us very far,” said Coffee, a leading expert on securities law and the only academic who participated in the event. “Competition works when competition is for the favor of investors. Competition does not work when the competition is for the loyalty of the issuer. If we increase competition in a world in which the issuers hold all the leverage, we’re just giving further power to the issuers and the investment banks.”
Professor John C. Coffee Jr. addresses the United Nations General Assembly
The debate was a unique opportunity for experts from government, international NGOs, and business to discuss the challenges associated with the current methods of credit rating agencies. Other participants included: Thomas Wieser, president of the European Union’s Euro Working Group; Thomas J. Butler, director of the Office for Credit Ratings at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Shaukat Aziz, former prime minister and finance minister of Pakistan; and Makoto Utsumi, president and chief executive officer of Japan Credit Rating Agency. Michael Casey, an editor and columnist at the Wall Street Journal, moderated the discussion. Attendees included representatives from U.N. member states and civil society organizations. 
The daylong debate, held at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, marked the first time this contentious topic was formally addressed before the U.N. General Assembly. The event was webcast live for the public.