Two and a half years ago, regulators opened the door for rating agencies to offer ratings or commentary on credits even when they haven't been hired to do so. Since then, all NRSROs can access detailed transaction data that issuers are required to post on designated issuer Web sites. The intended effect: a side market in unsolicited ratings and commentary. The actual effect: not a single unsolicited rating and roughly 15 commentaries.

That's about one commentary every two months, and they've been based by and large on publicly available data, and not on information culled from the issuer Web sites. Not to say there hasn't been any value here. In some cases, rating agencies have published unsolicited commentary after being dropped by an issuer because they didn't give the desired rating on the firm's securitization. Fitch's buzzed-about commentary on a Credit Suisse RMBS on March 29 is a prime example. In this month's cover story, Nora Colomer delves into why rating agencies have not been as proactive as the market had hoped. Apparently they're leery of legal liability surrounding access to the issuers' sites.

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