Yet Moody's is still one of everyone's favorite companies to hate, including mine. Its role in the credit crisis -- slapping AAA ratings on shoddy assets that banks like Bank of America
And the ultimate outcome stemming from those failures, many feel, will pummel Moody's long-term competitive advantage. Trust isn't a word anyone associates with the ratings agencies anymore.
More specifically, why Moody's and other raters are still doing well isn't because clients trust or respect their opinion, but because so many investment firms have to use the services of a nationally recognized statistical rating organization -- i.e., Moody's and a handful of others.
"Nobody I know buys or uses Moody's credit ratings because they believe in the brand," says hedge fund manager David Einhorn. "They use it because it is part of a government-created oligopoly and often because they are required to by law."
This, many believe, is actually what makes Moody's and other ratings agencies so darn powerful. And they're right. It's a government-created oligopoly that gives huge power to those involved.
But it's an oligopoly the government itself has expressed extreme hesitation about, with ratings agency reform a top priority in the financial overhaul.
Never was this more apparent then when congressman Barney Frank said earlier this summer, "There are a lot of statutory mandates that people have to rely on credit rating agencies. They're going to all be repealed." It doesn't get clearer than that.
What might happen when those mandates are repealed? The Wall Street Journal gave a good example. Already, some issuers have been selling debt with no ratings to investors without mandates, and they are doing just fine. "Investors buying unrated debt," the Journal writes, "are doing their own analysis of the collateral and expected cash flows that back the debt." Capitalism at work, baby.
This eroding of a competitive advantage, many believe, is what drove Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway
I think you get the point, and I'll stop there. What I want to know is what the Moody's bulls see in this company. I'm sure there are a few of you out there. What is it that the cynics like me are missing? I don't ask in a "gotcha!" sort of way. I really want to know. I want to know what you see in this company. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway and Moody's are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Berkshire Hathaway and Moody's are Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, and has a disclosure policy.