Moody's Speaks: "Detroit Bankruptcy Is A Credit Negative"
Just in case there was any question if a thousand monkeys armed with iPads could not only give Moody's a run for the money (even without leaking LBO information to the highest bidder) but solidly trash Uncle Warren's rating agency, the following statement should put any doubts to rest: "The bankruptcy filing by Detroit is a credit negative, Moody's Investors Service said on Thursday, because it creates uncertainty for bondholders, will likely interrupt payments on general obligation and limited tax bonds, and begins a process that may span years." That this statement comes from the same rating agency which concurrently with the Detroit bankruptcy raised its outlook on the US (a/k/a established a DOJ litigation reserve) due to, among other things, the "secure status of US dollars" is not surprising at all.
"While not unexpected, the filing opens the door to what will likely be an unprecedented litigation scenario," said the agency in a special comment. "Before issues like bondholder recovery levels and what level of services city residents will experience become clear, the bankruptcy is likely to be a complicated and protracted process."
Genevieve Nolan, a Moody's assistant vice president and analyst who helped author the special comment, said: "If we're taking a very, very long-term view this could be the point whether the city turns around, but at this time it is a credit negative.
"It's too early to tell what benefits - if any - come from this action."
In June, the city defaulted on a $39.7 million payment on taxable pension debt and presented a financial restructuring plan the rating agency called "unconventional."
At that point Moody's downgraded the rating of about $1.5 billion of certificates of participation to the lowest level of D, and then moved to cut Detroit's general obligation unlimited tax rating to Caa3.
The city is just at the beginning of a lengthy legal process, said fellow analyst Jeff Yorg. A judge will have to decide if Detroit can even file for bankruptcy, which includes proving the city tried to negotiate in good faith, and that alone could take months.
"It's based on previous history of other bankruptcies," he said, adding that "creditors will continue to challenge it."
The city's pension funds had already filed suit in court before Detroit filed for bankruptcy, he noted.
And that concludes tonight's Credit for Idiots lesson of the day. In other news, dying can be unhealthy.