Standard & Poor's CEO defended his company's downgrade of the U.S. triple-A credit rating, saying S&P had no political agenda and was not overcompensating for missing the subprime mortgage mess that precipitated the current economic situation.
"Our role is to call the risks objectively, with transparency, and that’s what we try to do to fulfill our role and that’s what our job is for the benefit of investors," Deven Sharma told CNBC Monday.
He pointed out that going from a triple-A to double-A-plus rating "doesn’t mean [the U.S. is] going to default, it just means its more risky today than a year ago."
S&P factored in the political process because it "speaks to how the fiscal, economic and monetary choices are being made," Sharma said, adding he was pleased by President Obama's speech today addressing the need for U.S. lawmakers to have a new sense of urgency to tackle long-term deficit spending.
S&P's view was based on a number of factors including projections of rising debt levels. Sharma said despite cuts mandated by last week's debt-ceiling legislation, the U.S. 2015 debt level will be $14 trillion, or 25 percent higher than today. "The fact is, the debt levels are still doubling from where we are today and that is an issue to address," he said.
He said S&P regretted its part in the subprime mortgage mess. "Clearly the housing declines were much more severe than we forecasted or anticipated," he said, and the rating agency has "made many changes in putting new checks and balances in our organization. We are committed to the reform process."
Sharma said the drop in markets Monday was not necessarily a reflection of the S&P downgrade.
"The market reacts in many ways, sometimes unexplainable, but our ratings really address the fundamentals of the creditworthiness," he said. "The market could be reacting to the fact there is a slowdown in economic growth. It could be reacting to what’s happening in Europe. It could be what’s happening in the U.S. There are multiple factors that...contribute to how the market reacts."