S&P chief to step down

US downgrade was not factor

Deven Sharma Deven Sharma
Associated Press / August 23, 2011

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NEW YORK - The president of Standard & Poor’s is stepping down, an announcement coming only weeks after the rating agency’s unprecedented move to strip the United States of its AAA credit rating.

The McGraw-Hill Cos., the parent of S&P, said late yesterday that Deven Sharma will be replaced by Douglas Peterson, now the chief operating officer of Citibank N.A., Citigroup Inc.’s chief banking arm.

Sharma, 55, “was ready for new challenges’’ after helping S&P separate its data, pricing, and analytics business from its ratings business, McGraw-Hill said in a statement. The company unveiled that restructuring at S&P late last year.

Peterson, 53, will take over the helm of Standard & Poor’s Sept. 12. Sharma will stay on as an adviser at the parent company until the end of the year.

McGraw-Hill’s statement did not mention the Aug. 5 downgrade that sent shock waves through global financial markets and was sharply criticized by the Obama administration, which said the agency’s analysis was fundamentally flawed. Other major rating agencies have maintained their AAA ratings on the United States.

It also did not refer to recent reports that the Justice Department was investigating whether S&P improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis in 2008. Those reports sent McGraw-Hill’s shares tumbling last week. The company said only that Sharma was eager to pursue other opportunities.

“S&P will continue to produce ratings that are comparable, forward looking, and transparent,’’ McGraw-Hill chief executive Harold McGraw III said in announcing the leadership change at the agency.

Sharma spent five years as an executive president for global strategy at McGraw Hill before he joined S&P in 2006. He was named president of the rating agency the following year.