European Union Investigating Standard & Poor's


According to media reports, European Union regulators are investigating Standard & Poor's to determine if the credit rating agency broke monopoly abuse rules by collecting fees from banks and investment funds to use S&P's identification codes.

S&P apparently requires these financial firms to pay a fee each time they use an international securities identification number to access financial information from content service providers such as Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg. S&P manages the CUSIP Service Bureau for the American Bankers Association. It serves as the only agency to receive first-hand information from all U.S. securities issuers and licenses the data to market information services.

The EU says that investors are paying to access a database they don't use and are being charged to access a code that they need to conduct their daily business activities. The EU also says that it has received complaints that S&P is ordering information providers to cut data feed access on U.S. securities to financial institutions if they didn't pay to use the codes.

S&P has responded through the media by saying that its licensing practices and charges follow industry practices and are fair. It is likely that this investigation will continue for a while as the EU more closely examines S&P's business model to determine if the company is acting improperly. It will be interesting to see how this will be resolved and if it will lead to changes in business practices for S&P and similar information providers.

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