recognized that the PLS market has been dormant since the financial crisis partly because of a “chicken-and-egg” phenomenon between rating agencies and originator-aggregators. Rating agencies will not rate mortgage pools without loan-level data, yet originator-aggregators will not originate pools of mortgage bonds without an idea of what it would take for the bond to receive a AAA rating.
Using our convening authority, Treasury invited six credit rating agencies to participate in an exercise over the last several months intended to provide market participants with greater transparency into their credit rating methodologies for residential mortgage loans.
By increasing clarity around loss expectations and required subordination levels for more diverse pools of collateral, the credit rating agencies can stimulate a constructive market dialogue around post-crisis underwriting and securitization practices and foster greater confidence in the credit rating process for private label mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The information obtained through this exercise may also give mortgage originators and aggregators greater insight into the potential economics of financing mortgage loans in the private label channel and the consequent implications for borrowing costs.
While this exercise is very technical, it contains some interesting nuggets for a broad range of readers. For instance,
The housing market, regulatory environment, and loan performance have evolved significantly from pre-crisis to present day. Credit rating agency models appear to account for these changes in varying ways. All credit rating agency models incorporate the performance of loans originated prior to, during, and after the crisis to the degree they believe best informs the nature of credit and prepayment risk reflected in the market. Credit rating agency model stress scenarios may be influenced by loans originated at the peak of the housing market, given the macroeconomic stress and home price declines they experienced. The credit rating agencies differ, however, in how their models adjust for the post-crisis regime of improved underwriting practices and operational controls. Some credit rating agencies capture these changes directly in their models, while other credit rating agencies rely on qualitative adjustments outside of their models. (10)
It is important for non-specialists to realize how much subjectivity can be built into rating agency models. Every model will make inferences based on past performance. The exercise highlights how different rating agencies address post-crisis loan performance in significantly different ways. Time will tell which ones got it right.