Business, Economics and Jobs

S&P taps top attorney John Keker for help with $5 billion US suit: Report

Standard and Poor's (S&P) has employed the services of major defense attorney John Keker after the US government filed a $5 billion lawsuit against the ratings firm earlier this week, according to Reuters

Another lawyer working with S&P, Floyd Abrams of New York, told Reuters Keker "is one of the great trial lawyers in this country."

The move adds a new level of drama to an already historic case marking the United State's first federal lawsuit against a major credit rating agency, according to the Financial Times.

The US Justice Department (DOJ) filed the case against S&P late Monday over its alleged role in the 2007-2009 global economic downturn. 

Seven state attorneys-general joined the DOJ's 128-page civil lawsuit against the McGraw-Hill unit, said FT

Authorities are taking the agency to task over the top-notch rating it gave securities, or CDOs, in the leadup to the economic meltdown. The DOJ suit claimed the agency's "desire for increased revenue...and its resulting desire to maintain and enhance its relationships with issuers that drove it ratings business, improperly influenced S&P to downplay and disregard the true extent of the credit risks," according to FT

S&P hit back Tuesday, saying "20/20 hindsight is no basis to take legal action against the good-faith opinions of professionals," according to an e-mail statement provided to Reuters.

Private investors have also accused S&P other major agencies of providing securities with high ratings that they say directly contributed to the misvaluing of thousands of subprime and other mortgage securities, which in turn lead to the 2008 US housing crisis that precipitated a global financial downturn, according to MSNBC

They claim S&P and other agencies upped the ratings in an attempt to boost profit, misleading investors about the true financial climate.