The financial crisis reached its apex in fall 2008 when major Wall Street firms collapsed. But for the big three rating agencies - Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings - the crisis began at least a year before, when they started issuing massive downgrades of RMBS.

Those downgrades were often multiple notches - some from high investment grade all the way to non-investment grade - leading critics to decry the ratings system as broken.

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