Though the name of the Federal Reserve includes the word "federal," it's not actually part of the government. It's an independent institution tasked with something very simple, but very huge: Creating money out of thin air.
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Alex Blumberg and NPR correspondent (and "Planet Money" reporter) Dave Kestenbaum examine what went wrong with the credit ratings agencies. When all these financial instruments that brought down our economy—the mortgage backed securities, the derivatives—were originally issued, the rating agencies (Standard and Poors, Moody's and Fitch) gave many of these things their top rating of triple-A.