credit reporting agency
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Credit Rating Agency
A company that provides investors with assessments of an investment's risk. The issuers of investments, especially debt securities, pay credit rating agencies to provide them with ratings. A high rating indicates low risk and may therefore encourage investors to buy a security. Additionally, banks may only invest in securities with a high rating from two or more credit rating agencies. The SEC recognizes 10 firms as credit rating agencies; Fitch, S&P, and Moody's are the three most prominent. However, the methods of credit ratings agencies have been subject to criticism. For example, most agencies gave high-risk mortgage-backed securities top ratings until they defaulted at the collapse of the housing bubble.
credit reporting agency (CRA)
An organization that maintains credit history information and sells reports and scores to authorized credit grantors. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission under the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.