Do Bond Issuers Shop for Favorable Credit Ratings?

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2019.3440

This paper provides evidence of ratings shopping in the corporate bond market. By estimating systematic differences in agencies’ biases about any given firm’s bonds, I show that new bonds are more likely to be rated by agencies that are positively biased toward the firm—a pattern that is strongest among bonds that have only one rating. The paper also shows that issuers often delay less favorable ratings until after a bond is sold. Consistent with theoretical models of ratings shopping, these effects are strongest among more complex bonds that are more difficult to rate. Bonds with upward-biased ratings are more likely to be downgraded and default, but investors account for this bias and demand higher yields when buying these bonds.

This paper was accepted by Gustavo Manso, finance.

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