Standard & Poor's longtime chief ratings officer, Vickie Tillman, has been given a new task: She will oversee “green initiatives” at the firm's parent, McGraw-Hill Cos., a spokesman said.
No replacement was named for Ms. Tillman, who has headed S&P's credit-rating activities for 10 years. But her departure as the No. 2 executive at S&P is the latest shakeup there since the depth of the mortgage mess became clear, with several officials either stepping down or being reassigned.
In August 2007, former S&P President Kathleen Corbet stepped aside and was replaced by Deven Sharma. Last year, S&P shook up leadership below the very highest layer of executives and appointed former Moody's executive Mark Adelson as chief credit officer.
Ms. Tillman's new position, which begins Aug. 3, will focus on building revenues in such areas as carbon trading, sustainability indexes and renewable resources. Asked if Ms. Tillman sought the new job after 32 years in credit analysis or was told to take it, a spokesman said: “It's a very strong new business opportunity for her.”
In the past two years, Ms. Tillman took the role as one of S&P's leading defenders, explaining its work and promising to do better before members of Congress, in letters to newspapers and other public forums. S&P, along with rivals Moody's and Fitch Ratings, has been fiercely criticized by investors, regulators and members of Congress for awarding AAA ratings to mortgage-related securities that proved to be junk.
Joseph Mason, a finance professor at Louisiana State University who has followed the credit-ratings agencies for several years, praised Ms. Tillman for taking steps to “reform the culture” at S&P after its securitized-mortgage ratings proved inaccurate.
“She was in there fighting and that takes a lot of energy,” he said. “I could understand if she wanted to do something else.”
President Barack Obama's financial-reform package calls on the Securities and Exchange Commission to “strengthen the regulation” of the credit-rating firms. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has said her agency would address “inherent conflicts of interest” at S&P and Moody's, whose revenues come from charging the companies whose debt they rate.
Aaron Elstein is a reporter at Crain's New York Business, a sister publication of Pensions & Investments