VTB Fumes at Fitch’s ‘Lurid’ Statements After Downgrade

VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest bank, questioned the ability of Fitch Ratings to judge its financial health after the credit company lowered its issuer-default rating one level.

Fitch downgraded VTB’s rating to BBB- today in a statement that said there is a “marginally lower” chance the state will support the lender than other state-owned banks OAO Sberbank and Vnesheconombank. Moscow-based VTB responded in a statement that it terminated its contract with Fitch in 2012 and that the firm doesn’t have access to non-public information.

“VTB believes Fitch Ratings’ analysts lack the qualifications and resources to make a competent interpretation of the data, and that the agency’s Russian office focuses primarily on PR stunts and lurid public statements,” the bank’s press office said in e-mailed comments.

For decades, ratings companies benefited from the U.S. government’s blessing as arbiters of creditworthiness. Their objectivity was questioned after the collapse of top-ranked mortgage-backed securities helped spark the longest recession since the 1930s, leading U.S. lawmakers to target the credit-grading business as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

VTB is rated BBB by Standard & Poor’s and Baa2 by Moody’s, with a stable outlook from both firms.

Hannah Huntly, a London-based spokeswoman at Fitch, declined to comment on VTB’s statement when reached by phone.

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