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Ratings Shopping Revived in Asset-Backed Rebound: Credit Markets

Almost six years after the start of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, bond issuers are again exploiting credit ratings by seeking firms that will provide high grades on debt backed by assets from auto loans to office buildings considered inappropriate by rivals.

Fitch Ratings isn’t grading a deal linked to a Manhattan skyscraper after saying investors needed more protection. The securities won top grades from Moody’s Investors Service and Kroll Bond Rating Agency Inc. Blackstone Group LP’s Exeter Finance Corp. got top-tier ratings from Standard & Poor’s and DBRS Ltd. in the past 15 months on $629 million of bonds backed by car loans to people with bad credit histories, even as Moody’s and Fitch said they wouldn’t grant such rankings.