The Bertelsmann Foundation (Bertelsmann Stiftung), based in Germany, has announced that it is moving forward with a model for a nonprofit ratings agency. Over the coming months the foundation will work with a group of international experts to carry out a study outlining a new type of agency whose sole purpose will be to evaluate individual countries.

The Bertelsmann Foundation emphasized that the new organization is designed to complement the work done by existing agencies. “One prerequisite is that policymakers in both Europe and the United States recognize the need for comprehensive country assessments, since this is not about creating a ‘European’ alternative to the ‘Anglo-American’ model. Our model is instead meant to be an additional resource that will examine individual countries in depth and over the long term,” said Gunter Thielen, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Foundation.

The study’s first draft is planned for spring 2012, when the Bertelsmann Foundation North America, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s US-based affiliate, will organize its annual conference, held just prior to the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington. In developing the agency, the Bertelsmann Stiftung will collaborate with other international think tanks in addition to its own network of experts.

For over 10 years the Bertelsmann Stiftung has used a number of projects, including its Transformation Index (BTI) and Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI), to measure economic and sociopolitical developments. When carrying out these international governance assessments it works with a network of more than 300 experts and analysts in over 150 countries.

Source:  Bertelsmann Stiftung

BIIA comment:  The idea of entering the rating business is not new for Bertelsmann.  It had entertained such move already decades ago, but always abandoned the idea.  Bertelsmann feels that its new initiative is justified because of the current dissatisfaction with existing rating agencies and that a not-for-profit model would be a better stalwart for neutrality and competence.  Current criticism aside, the existing rating agencies have huge knowledge bases which are critical in the rating business and are hard to match by any newcomer.  So what does Bertelsmann have up its sleeve to be able to complement the work of current rating agencies and to raise the level of confidence for investors?