Looks like Standard & Poor's could be in for a downgrade of its own—from the Justice Department. Federal investigators are probing possible wrongdoing at the credit ratings agency in the years leading up to the financial crisis, sources tell the New York Times. The probe, expected to lead to a civil case instead of a criminal one, predates the downgrading of America's triple-A rating and may also involve Moody’s and Fitch ratings, the sources say.
Investigators suspect that S&P may have improperly rated mortgage bonds after business managers overruled the company's analysts, according to sources. Managing director David Tesher allegedly said: "Don’t kill the golden goose" in reference to mortgage securities. Analysts say that if a case against S&P is successful, it would not only demolish its claim that its ratings are awarded independently of business interests, it could shake up the whole business model of the ratings agencies, which make hefty profits by charging entities for receiving credit ratings. (Read more Standard & Poor's stories.)