Barbara Duka, the ex-head of Standard & Poor’s commercial mortgage-backed securities, is on trial before a Securities and Exchange Commission administrative law judge. Duka is accused of inflating the ratings of commercial mortgage-backed securities and not telling investors that she and her team had changed the way they formulated ratings for the securities in 2011.
The SEC contends that Duka implemented the change after the credit rating agency lost market shares for rating commercial-backed securities using “more conservative criteria” in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse. The regulator believes that Duka began to rate the securities in a way that favored the issuers so S & P could bring in more business.
Meantime, investors continued to believe that the ratings were conservatively-based. Now, the Commission wants to bar Duka from associating with ratings organizations. It also wants her to pay financial penalties.
The SEC brought its case against Duka last year around the time that the Commission and two state attorneys general announced that they had reached a $77M settlement with S &P. The regulator’s case was brought after Citigroup Inc.(C) and Goldman Sachs Group(GS) had to withdraw a $1.5B commercial mortgage-backed securities offering because S & P told them about an internal review of the securities ratings. Duka, meantime, sued the SEC, questioning whether it had the right to pursue cases in-house before its own judge instead of in court. Although a district court judge ruled that the SEC could not move forward with its case against Duka, a federal appeals court decided otherwise.