Thursday, November 20, 2008

Does the First Amendment protect the right to freely express a lie?

The bank regulators of the world decided over the last decades to give some few credit rating agencies an immense role channeling the financial flows of the world and, as was doomed to happen, sooner or later, such an information oligopoly led us into a disaster, in this particular case the badly awarded mortgages to the subprime sector.

Currently, defending themselves, the credit rating agencies argue, apparently with great success, that all they do is opine and that their opinions are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

To anyone knowledgeable about these issues, may I ask a simple question?

Suppose the credit rating agencies were giving opinions that were not really their firm opinions, or in fact might even have been opinions contrary to their own real opinions, does the First Amendment equally cover the right to express non-opinions or outright lies?