While plaintiffs’ lawyers may be welcoming a new administration in Washington and eyeing the prospect of convincing federal lawmakers to lower restrictions on securities class actions, they’re likelier to get a clear shot at credit rating agencies than corporate directors and officers, one expert says.

“There is no one Congress is angrier at than the credit rating agencies,” said Professor John Coffee of Columbia University, speaking last month at the opening session of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society’s D&O Symposium.

The rating agencies have to this point been totally immune from liability, he reported. “They partly rely on First Amendment defense [and] more often rely on the difficulty of alleging scienter,” he said, explaining that this hurdle to bringing securities cases requires investor plaintiffs to plead “facts with particularity giving rise to strong inference of fraud.”

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