Egan-Jones Rating Company and its founder Sean Egan has been sanctioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency announced that it would bar Egan and Egan-Jones from issuing ratings on government and asset-backed securities for 18 months. The sanction is a result of an investigation into documents Egan filed in April with the SEC, which the agency believes exaggerated the expertise of Egan-Jones Rating Company in rating securities.
A statement from the SEC indicates that the agency barred Egan-Jones from rating securities after it said Egan himself made “material misstatements” when registering with the agency to become a Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (NRSRO). According to the SEC, Egan-Jones falsely stated in its registration papers that it had been rating asset-backed and government security issues since 1995. However the agency said that the firm didn’t issue any ratings before its 2008 application. Egan agreed to the 18-month ban as part of a settlement agreement with the agency.
The SEC also reported that it found evidence that Egan-Jones violated conflict-of-interest provisions and that Egan himself caused those violations. Egan agreed to fix the conflict-of-interest issues and issue a report to the SEC explaining the steps that have been taken to correct those issues. Egan will have to sign the report “under penalty of perjury.”
“Accuracy and transparency in the registration process are essential to the Commission’s oversight of credit rating agencies,” SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said in the agency’s statement. “EJR and Egan’s misrepresentation of the firm’s actual experience rating issuers of asset-backed and government securitiesis a serious violation that undercuts the integrity of the SEC’s NSRO registration process.”
Egan and Egan-Jones agreed to the entry of the order “without admitting or denying the findings” of the SEC’s investigation.
Egan-Jones and the US Government have had some bad blood in the past. Egan-Jones became the first major credit rating agency to downgrade US debt in 2011. The firm downgraded US debt another two times, to the lowest level of Credit grade.