Fitch Ratings Inc. is one of the "Big Three credit rating agencies", the other two being Moody's and Standard & Poor's. It is one of the three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSRO) designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1975.
Fitch Ratings is dual-headquartered in New York, USA, and London, UK. Hearst owns 80% of the company following its acquisition of an additional 30 percent on December 12, 2014, in a transaction valued at $1.965 billion. Hearst’s previous equity interest was 50% following expansions on an original acquisition in 2006.
The remaining 20% of Fitch is owned by FIMALAC SA, which will hold 50% of votes within the Board until 2020. Fitch Ratings and Fitch Solutions are part of the Fitch Group.
The firm was founded by John Knowles Fitch on December 24, 1914 in New York City as the Fitch Publishing Company. It merged with London-based IBCA Limited in December 1997. In 2000 Fitch acquired both Chicago-based Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co. (April) and Thomson Financial BankWatch (December).
Fitch Ratings is the smallest of the "big three" NRSROs, covering a more limited share of the market than S&P and Moody's, though it has grown with acquisitions and frequently positions itself as a "tie-breaker" when the other two agencies have ratings similar, but not equal, in scale.
In September 2011, Fitch Group announced the sale of Algorithmics (risk analytics software) to IBM for $387 million. The deal closed on October 21, 2011.
Fitch Ratings' long-term credit ratings are assigned on an alphabetic scale from 'AAA' to 'D', first introduced in 1924 and later adopted and licensed by S&P. (Moody's also uses a similar scale, but names the categories differently.) Like S&P, Fitch also uses intermediate +/− modifiers for each category between AA and CCC (e.g., AA+, AA, AA−, A+, A, A−, BBB+, BBB, BBB−, etc.).
Fitch's short-term ratings indicate the potential level of default within a 12-month period.
Launched in 2008, Fitch Solutions offers a range of fixed-income products and professional development services for financial professionals. The firm also distributes Fitch Ratings' proprietary credit ratings, research, financial data, and analytical tools.
Credit rating agencies such as Fitch Ratings have been subject to criticism in the wake of large losses in the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market that occurred despite being assigned top ratings by the CRAs. For instance, losses on $340.7 million worth of collateralized debt obligations (CDO) issued by Credit Suisse Group added up to about $125 million, despite being rated AAA by Fitch. However, differently from the other agencies, Fitch has been warning the market on the constant proportion debt obligations (CPDO) with an early and pre-crisis report highlighting the dangers of CPDO's.