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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Reputation Value: Sovereign state edition

C. HUYGENS - Wednesday, March 19, 2014
"In a market based on trust, reputation has value," noted Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, as Wall Street imploded.

Certainly reputation has value in the financial sector. In fact, the US Office of Comptroller of the Currency now recognizes reputation risk as one of eight sources of financial risk that institutions need to manage.

And reputation has value in public companies in general. Around two thirds of public company directors, and an equal number of public companies, disclose the materiality of reputation risk in their SEC filings (10K item 1A).

But what about the public sector? Does reputation impact budget line items in the public sector the same way it impacts line items in a public company’s P&L. Apparently, yes.

As far as state budgets go, Illinois has one of the worst, suffering from underfunded employee pension obligations and an economy that isn’t adding enough top-line cash. Its credit rating is the nation’s lowest, which means it’s considered the worst borrowing risk out of a list of 50 (and therefore pays the most for it).

But beyond this low credit rating, Illinois pays interest rates on its debt that are higher than the actual default risk that these ratings are designed to reflect. Illinois pays a reputation risk premium.

In a recent paper published by the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of South Carolina professors Tima Moldogaziev and Martin Luby studied this reputation risk premium and found that it costs the state plenty. For bond sales between 2005 and 2010, they estimate that this reputation risk premium cost the state more than $80 million. That's $80 million over and above what the state should have been paying based on its worst-in-the-nation credit rating.

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