Free speech and the Rating Agencies

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April 30, 2013 by Tamara Piety

Now that the United States has sued Standard and Poor’s over the subprime mortgage fiasco, see The S&P Lawsuit, it will be interesting to see whether S & P will raise a First Amendment defense as it has in some of the civil cases. Those civil cases have apparently been settled, but the government’s case remains. Some observers say that the courts are likely to give it a chilly reception. S&P Lawsuit First Amendment Defense May Fare Poorly, Experts Say. I am inclined to agree, although not because the case law wouldn’t permit the courts to consider this defense. Rather, I suspect the implications of permitting the rating agency’s opinions to be treated like fully protected opinions and subjected to a New York Times v. Sullivan standard, a standard under which a certain amount of falsity is protected as a necessary evil so that we can protect the speech that we value, would have intolerable implications for 10(b)5 and maybe fraud cases generally.

This post first appeared on The Faculty Lounge in an earlier form.

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