"'What we do is provide access to the capital market,' Mr. [Harold] McGraw responded. 'If the market wants those kinds of products and the institutional investors want those products, then we move with the market and we're going to rate whatever.' The comment got little notice at the time [October 2007]. But it helps to explain why S&P, its parent company and Mr. McGraw now are in a pickle. ... In the mid-1990s, Frank Raiter, then an S&P executive working in residential-mortgage ratings, proposed using more sophistiated models to predict how mortgage loans would perform. Mr. Raiter wanted to pitch the modeling product to big market participants such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. ... Building market share in existing and new products also got lots of attention. ... In March 2007, Mr. McGraw described CDOs as a 'high-quality' market, as shown by the high number of triple-A ratings S&P had assigned to them", my emphasis, Aaron Luchetti at the WSJ, 2 August 2008.
This "independence" stuff is a joke. It never stopped CPA firms from bending to their clients wishes, why will it improve the rating agencies (RA) work? The notion a "gift" would more influence an analyst's work more than the fee his firm will or will not receive is preposterous. The SEC's proposed gift rule is just more window dressing.