The Real Costs of Corporate Credit Ratings

56 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2014 Last revised: 11 Aug 2015

Date Written: August 11, 2015


Credit rating agencies emphasize the importance of specific financial ratio thresholds in their rating process. Firms below these thresholds are more likely to receive higher ratings than similar firms that are not. I show that firms near key Debt/EBITDA thresholds are significantly more likely to reduce R\&D and SG\&A expenditures (boosting EBITDA) prior to bond issuance compared to observationally similar firms not near a threshold. Subsequently, they are more likely to experience declines in patent productivity, profitability, and Tobin's Q. These distortions highlight an important cost of arm's-length financing and an adverse consequence of transparency in credit rating criteria.

Keywords: credit ratings, transparency, real distortions

JEL Classification: G31

Suggested Citation

Begley, Taylor A., The Real Costs of Corporate Credit Ratings (August 11, 2015). Paris December 2014 Finance Meeting EUROFIDAI - AFFI Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Taylor A. Begley (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506
United States


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