German funds call on EU to force ratings agencies to open up on fees

German funds association BVI and insurance body GDV make joint appeal to European Commission to impose greater transparency

Skyscrapers stand on the financial district skyline in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Partly thanks to the government’s stimulus program, German activity has staged a strong rebound after collapsing in the second quarter, and companies have turned slightly more optimistic that it will continue to accelerate into next year. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

German investment funds and insurers have called on the European Union to force credit rating agencies to provide more transparency on the fees they charge for data.

US-based agencies Moody's, S&P Global and Fitch Ratings, dubbed the Big Three, dominate credit ratings in Europe.

German funds association BVI and insurance industry body GDV said they were making a joint appeal to the EU's executive European Commission to force raters to provide more transparency on prices.

"The major US rating agencies are exploiting their dominant market position to set their pricing, but the EU securities authority ESMA lacks the regulatory tools to bring such abusive licence and fee demands to an end," Thomas Richter, chief executive of BVI, said in a statement on Monday.

Fund managers and insurers need ratings data for determining risks from investment portfolios, and for complying with accounting and regulatory reporting rules.

All data providers within the same rating group must be subject to the EU's rules for raters, which is currently not the case, BVI and GDV said.

The Fitch Group said it does not believe that a change in the rules in this regard is merited. Moody's and S&P had no immediate comment.

Certain subscribers of ratings have chosen to receive bespoke ratings data from distributor Fitch Solutions, which is independent of the Fitch Ratings arm, on terms it deems commercially reasonable, Fitch Group said.

The price of data was becoming an increasingly important "competitive" factor for European asset managers, the German funds and insurer bodies said.

Investment funds are already pressing Brussels to force stock exchanges to cut the cost of data fees on stock transactions.

European policymakers have long chafed at U.S. rating agencies dominating the region but attempts to create major "home grown" alternatives have made only modest headway.