The day of reckoning is near. Somewhere around March 2, Standard & Poor's expects to start evaluating nonfinancial companies' enterprise risk management (ERM) programs, and then factoring their assessments into credit ratings. The goal is to anticipate a crisis before it makes headlines, says Steven J. Dreyer, S&P primary credit analyst. Some companies already have expressed concern about how S&P analysts can judge and score such amorphous information.

Dreyer answers: By analyzing the risk management culture and governance and risk controls, emerging risk preparation and strategic risk management through on-site observation, a series of questions, discussions with officials, tests and benchmarking against peers. The procedure will add a day to each rating, says Dreyer.

Not surprisingly, many finance executives get prickly just thinking about judgment day. In an attempt to calm those fears, and welcoming suggestions from the companies themselves, S&P is asking for comment on the plan's recently published framework. Questions and observations are due Feb. 1. The ERM analysis could proceed as soon as the following month, or be revised and delayed–and, though it is highly unlikely, cancelled.

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