Politicians’ connections and sovereign credit ratings

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Using a unique hand-collected sample of professional connections between finance ministers and the top executives of the three largest credit rating agencies (CRAs) for 38 European sovereigns between January 2000 and November 2017, we show that professional connections result in higher sovereign ratings. This finding is attributed to ‘favoritism’, which stems from the conflict-of-interest problem in the CRA business model. We also find that the subjective component of ratings, captured by professional connections, has a more pronounced role for developing than developed countries. Our study offers new empirical evidence that unsolicited sovereign ratings are significantly lower than solicited ratings. Our results survive battery of robustness checks including propensity score matching (PSM), two-way fixed-effects, system GMM and various definitions of connection. Our findings offer wide-ranging implications for regulators, governments, market participants and CRAs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102022
JournalJournal of International Financial Markets, Institutions & Money
Early online date21 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2024


  • Professional connections
  • Rating solicitation
  • Sovereign credit ratings

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