The Italian Court of Audit Corte dei Conti disclosed its plans to sue the three largest rating agencies for an amount exceeding 200 billion euros. Corte dei Conti turned to Standard & Poor's, Fitch Rating and Moody's Investor Service, claiming that their activities could be illegal, as these companies significantly downgraded Italy and its cultural heritage from July 1, 2011 to January 13, 2012 and thereby caused damage to the country's economy at 234 billion euros.
In particular, the Accounts Chamber accused the rating agencies of not assessing the history of the country, its cultural and natural heritage, which, in turn, are considered the foundations of the country's economic potential.
However, Standard & Poor's management claims that the Corte dei Conti lawsuit has no basis. A large agency intends to prove this in court, if necessary, arguing that the Italian state auditor’s powers are limited exclusively to government agencies, but not to rating companies. S&P's main competitor, Moody's Investor Service, also believes that the Corte dei Conti lawsuit is completely unfounded, and Fitch Ratings has promised the Roman police all assistance in the investigation. The representative of the agency says that the activities of Fitch Ratings were and is absolutely legal.
At the end of last year, all three rating companies received a warning from the European Organization for Securities and Financial Markets (ESMA) about the sanctions that would follow if some of the Big Three mistakes made during the economic crisis were proved. The European organization suspected the agency of illegal activities after there was a delay in the publication of sovereign ratings. ESMA also recognizes the likelihood that the Big Three have experienced serious data leaks and conflicts of interest have flared up.
Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said recently that the country's lowered position in Standard & Poor's actually pushed investors away from Italy.
The low rating of the country indicated that the crisis that swept through Europe reached the country of wine and the sun. According to some data from the main audit organization in Italy, two weeks after the publication of the S&P rating, the number of investments in the country decreased significantly. The rating agency claims that the publication of that ill-fated list was necessary, as European leaders simply refused to admit that they were in a quandary.
Perhaps the Corte dei Conti lawsuit will be the largest of all those that rating agencies have encountered before. US authorities have also repeatedly criticized the activities of the "Big Three." Standard & Poor's got the worst deal, against which the US filed a lawsuit of $ 5 billion, accusing the company of overstating some mortgage securities before the country plunged into a severe crisis.