WASHINGTON -- Securities and Exchange Commissioner Richard Roberts warned last weekend that his own agency is encouraging an "unauthorized cartel" of rating agencies and said he would continue to push for formal regulation of the firms.

Mr. Roberts, speaking Saturday before the The Bond Club of Virginia, said the SEC has granted several U.S.-based rating agencies status as so-called "nationally recognized statistical rating organizations" on the basis of a narrow set of standards never intended to be the foundation for such status. The standards regulate the minimum net capital securities firms must have to operate.

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