MILAN Nov 14 Fitch Ratings may reassess the
future of its operations in Italy after its Italian unit and two
of its employees were indicted in a probe over sovereign debt
downgrades, it said on Wednesday.
In a statement Fitch said it had restricted with immediate
effect its market communication on ratings for Italian entities
and issuance to formal published research only.
Prosecutors in the southern Italian town of Trani want to
put seven former and current employees at Fitch and rival agency
Standard & Poor's on trial for allegedly leaking information
about their downgrades during market hours.
A judge now has to decide on the prosecutors' request.
Both S&P and Fitch have rejected the claims.
Fitch on Wednesday called the indictment of Fitch Italia and
two members of its staff "an unprecedented manoeuvre that lacks
"All teleconferences, conferences in Italy and any similar
events for the purpose of discussing Italian entities are
suspended, and questions from third-party market participants
such as investors or journalists will be referred back to our
published comments," it said.
"If Fitch does not receive adequate assurances that this
type of incident will not be repeated, we may have to
re-evaluate the future of our operations in Italy."
The case focuses on a series of credit downgrades since
2011, including one by Fitch in January 2012, which prompted
steep losses on Italy's stock and bond markets.
If the Italian case goes to trial it may reshape the
long-running debate over liability of rating agencies for their
credit opinions at a time of great global economic uncertainty.