November 16, 2011.
On May 19, 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) conditionally exempted, with respect to certain credit ratings and until December 2, 2010, nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (“NRSROs”) from certain requirements Start Printed Page 72228in Rule 17g-5(a)(3) 
under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), which had a compliance date of June 2, 2010.
Pursuant to the Order, an NRSRO is not required to comply with Rule 17g-5(a)(3) until December 2, 2010 with respect to credit ratings where: (1) The issuer of the structured finance product is a non-U.S. person; and (2) the NRSRO has a reasonable basis to conclude that the structured finance product will be offered and sold upon issuance, and that any arranger linked to the structured finance product will effect transactions of the structured finance product after issuance, only in transactions that occur outside the U.S. (“covered transactions”).
On November 23, 2010, the Commission extended the conditional temporary exemption until December 2, 2011 (the “Extension Order”).
The Commission is extending the temporary conditional exemption exempting NRSROs from complying with Rule 17g-5(a)(3) with respect to rating covered transactions until December 2, 2012.
Rule 17g-5 identifies, in paragraphs (b) and (c) of the rule, a series of conflicts of interest arising from the business of determining credit ratings.
Paragraph (a) of Rule 17g-5 
prohibits an NRSRO from issuing or maintaining a credit rating if it is subject to the conflicts of interest identified in paragraph (b) of Rule 17g-5 unless the NRSRO has taken the steps prescribed in paragraph (a)(1) (i.e., disclosed the type of conflict of interest in Exhibit 6 to Form NRSRO in accordance with Section 15E(a)(1)(B)(vi) of the Exchange Act 
and Rule 17g-1) 
and paragraph (a)(2) (i.e., established and is maintaining and enforcing written policies and procedures to address and manage conflicts of interest in accordance with Section 15E(h) of the Exchange Act).
Paragraph (c) of Rule 17g-5 specifically prohibits seven types of conflicts of interest. Consequently, an NRSRO is prohibited from issuing or maintaining a credit rating when it is subject to these conflicts regardless of whether it had disclosed them and established procedures reasonably designed to address them.
In December 2009, the Commission adopted subparagraph (a)(3) to Rule 17g-5. This provision requires an NRSRO that is hired by an arranger to determine an initial credit rating for a structured finance product to take certain steps designed to allow an NRSRO that is not hired by the arranger to nonetheless determine an initial credit rating—and subsequently monitor that credit rating—for the structured finance product.
In particular, under Rule 17g-5(a)(3), an NRSRO is prohibited from issuing or maintaining a credit rating when it is subject to the conflict of interest identified in paragraph (b)(9) of Rule 17g-5 (i.e., being hired by an arranger to determine a credit rating for a structured finance product) 
unless it has taken the steps prescribed in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of Rule 17g-5 (discussed above) and the steps prescribed in new paragraph (a)(3) of Rule 17g-5.
Rule 17g-5(a)(3), among other things, requires that the NRSRO must:
- Maintain on a password-protected Internet Web site a list of each structured finance product for which it currently is in the process of determining an initial credit rating in chronological order and identifying the type of structured finance product, the name of the issuer, the date the rating process was initiated, and the Internet Web site address where the arranger represents the information provided to the hired NRSRO can be accessed by other NRSROs;
- Provide free and unlimited access to such password-protected Internet Web site during the applicable calendar year to any NRSRO that provides it with a copy of the certification described in paragraph (e) of Rule 17g-5 that covers that calendar year; 
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- Obtain from the arranger a written representation that can reasonably be relied upon that the arranger will, among other things, disclose on a password-protected Internet Web site the information it provides to the hired NRSRO to determine the initial credit rating (and monitor that credit rating) and provide access to the Web site to an NRSRO that provides it with a copy of the certification described in paragraph (e) Rule 17g-5.
The Commission stated in the Adopting Release that subparagraph Rule 17g-5(a)(3) is designed to address conflicts of interest and improve the quality of credit ratings for structured finance products by making it possible for more NRSROs to rate structured finance products.
For example, the Commission noted that when an NRSRO is hired to rate a structured finance product, some of the information it relies on to determine the rating is generally not made public.
As a result, structured finance products frequently are issued with ratings from only the one or two NRSROs that have been hired by the arranger, with the attendant conflict of interest that creates.
The Commission stated that subparagraph Rule 17g-5(a)(3) was designed to increase the number of credit ratings extant for a given structured finance product and, in particular, to promote the issuance of credit ratings by NRSROs that are not hired by arrangers.
The Commission's goal in adopting the rule was to provide users of credit ratings with more views on the creditworthiness of structured finance products.
In addition, the Commission stated that Rule 17g-5(a)(3) was designed to reduce the ability of arrangers to obtain better than warranted ratings by exerting influence over NRSROs hired to determine credit ratings for structured finance products.
Specifically, by opening up the rating process to more NRSROs, the Commission intended to make it easier for the hired NRSRO to resist such pressure by increasing the likelihood that any steps taken to inappropriately favor the arranger could be exposed to the market through the credit ratings issued by other NRSROs.
Rule 17g-5(a)(3) became effective on February 2, 2010, and the compliance date for Rule 17g-5(a)(3) was June 2, 2010.
III. Extension of Conditional Temporary Extension
In the Order, the Commission requested comment generally, but also on a number of specific issues.
The Commission received six comments in response to this solicitation of comment.
The commenters expressed concern that the extraterritorial application of Rule 17g-5(a)(3) could, in the commenter's view, among other things, disrupt local securitization markets,
inhibit the ability of local firms to raise capital,
and conflict with local laws.
Several commenters also requested that the conditional temporary exemption be extended or made permanent.
The Extension Order again solicited public comment on issues raised in connection with the extra-territorial application of Rule 17g-5(a)(3).
One comment letter requested that the Order be made permanent, citing many of the same reasons set forth in prior comment letters.
Given the continued concerns about potential disruptions of local securitization markets, and because the Commission's consideration of the issues raised will benefit from additional time to engage in further dialogue with interested parties and to monitor market and regulatory developments, the Commission believes extending the conditional temporary exemption until December 2, 2012 is necessary or appropriate in the public interest, and is consistent with the protection of investors.
IV. Request for Comment
The Commission believes that it would be useful to continue to provide interested parties opportunity to comment. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
- Send paper comments in triplicate to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F St., NE., Washington, DC 20549-1090.
All submissions should refer to File Number S7-04-09. This file number should be included on the subject line if email is used. To help us process and review your comments more efficiently, please use only one method. The Commission will post all comments on the Commission's Internet Web site (http://www.sec.gov/rules/exorders.shtml). Comments are also available for Web site viewing and printing in the Commission's Public Reference Room, 100 F St. NE., Washington, DC 20549 on official business days between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. All comments received will be posted without change; the Commission does not edit personal identifying information from submissions. You should submit only information that you wish to make available publicly.
For the foregoing reasons, the Commission believes it would be necessary or appropriate in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors to extend the conditional temporary exemption exempting NRSROs from complying with Rule 17g-5(a)(3) with respect to rating covered transactions until December 2, 2012.
It is hereby ordered, pursuant to Section 36 of the Exchange Act, that a nationally recognized statistical rating Start Printed Page 72230organization is exempt until December 2, 2012 from the requirements in Rule 17g-5(a)(3) (17 CFR 240.17g-5(a)(3)) for credit ratings where:
(1) The issuer of the security or money market instrument is not a U.S. person (as defined under Securities Act Rule 902(k)); and
(2) The nationally recognized statistical rating organization has a reasonable basis to conclude that the structured finance product will be offered and sold upon issuance, and that any arranger linked to the structured finance product will effect transactions of the structured finance product after issuance, only in transactions that occur outside the U.S.
By the Commission.
Elizabeth M. Murphy,
[FR Doc. 2011-30053 Filed 11-21-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8011-01-P