S&P, Fitch preliminary hearings open in Italy
Ratings agencies accused of 'destabilizing credit confidence'03 December, 11:58
Business and legal analysts believe the case could spark similar claims against ratings agencies around the world. Italian prosecutors said earlier this year that they were investigating the possibility that "false, unfounded or imprudent judgements" had unduly affected markets. Deven Sharma, S&P's president from 2007 to 2011, was one of seven senior figures linked to the agencies. In January investigators searched S&P's Milan offices two days after the agency downgraded Italy along with eight other countries including France and Spain. Five days later, Trani prosecutors ordered a search of the Milan offices of Fitch, the world's second-largest ratings agency, which downgraded Italy three days later. The agencies deny any wrongdoing. Standard & Poor's has called the accusations "totally unfounded" and added that the agency will continue to work "without fear". Prosecutors have announced that Lazio's Audit Court has opened a parallel investigation into the two international rating agencies. Investigators there have estimated damages to the Italian Treasury at 120 billion euros.