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Realpoint just joined the ranks of the Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Agency Organizations, having received the designation from the Securities and Exchange Commission. In other words, it is a rating agency on par with Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and the handful of other lesser-known NRSROs that evaluate and rate securities.

The designation is a timely one for the market, according to Realpoint executives, as the firm is planting a flag as an NRSRO that evaluates securities from the investor – not the issuer – perspective. Perhaps unfairly, Moody’s, S&P and others have come under fire over the years – and certainly after the credit market implosion – for not taking investors’ interest as much into account as they rate securities. NRSROs like Moody’s are paid by the issuer of the debt for its ratings – a conflict of interest, critics of the system say.

Realpoint, which has been rating structured securities for the past seven years using a subscription-based model that charges investors to rate the debt, wants to base its NRSRO activities on that same model, Robert Dobilas, CEO and president of Realpoint, tells GlobeSt.com. “We have been in discussion with several parties in the industry and are working with some of the issuers right now on how to accomplish that.” With a NRSRO designation, issuers can now hire Realpoint, which covers 11,000 securities on a monthly basis, including CMBS.

He says he doesn’t expect to rival the big three – Fitch Ratings, along with Moody’s and S&P. Rather, Dobilas views Realpoint’s new role in the market as a way to give investors “an alternative view of a security.” “We decided to apply for NRSRO status late last year because of the condition of the financial market – we decided it was time for a subscription-based rating model to be introduced into the process.” The SEC’s attitude towards NRSROs shifted as well, which also accounted in part for Realpoint’s decision to throw its hat in the ring. “It was only recently it adopted a stance of wanting to see more competition,” Dobilas says.

At the same time, though, Realpoint is entering the market as it is likely poised to undergo significant flux. The SEC is seriously considering implementing changes in how rating agencies must operate. Some of these suggested changes – such as making information that one NRSRO uses to rate a security available to all NRSROs – the company agrees with, says Joe Petro, director of sales at Realpoint.

“That move alone would give investors more choice,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s not enough to increase the number of licensed NRSROs – this has to be coupled with more access to data.” Otherwise, as Petro sees it, it will be “business as usual” and issuers will continue to “shop around for rating agencies they like.”

Other changes the SEC is proposing however — namely the suggestion that structured securities such as CMBS receive a different rating than bonds – Realpoint does not want to see go in effect. Like many in the industry, Petro and Dobilas believe a duel-track rating system for structured securities would unfairly taint those securities in the eyes of investors as more dangerous; especially for CMBS, Petro says, which has been unfairly lumped in with the RMBS market.

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