You might find a rating agency using these short-term issue credit ratings’ category definitions:
A short-term obligation rated ‘A-1’ is rated in the highest category by the rating agency. The obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is strong. Within this category, certain obligations are designated with a plus sign (+). This indicates that the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on these obligations is extremely strong.
A short-term obligation rated ‘A-2’ is somewhat more susceptible to the adverse effects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions than obligations in higher rating categories. However, the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is satisfactory.
A short-term obligation rated ‘A-3’ exhibits adequate protection parameters. However, adverse economic conditions or changing circumstances are more likely to lead to a weakened capacity of the obligor to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.
A short-term obligion rated ‘B’ is regarded as vulnerable and has significant speculative characteristics. The obligor currently has the capacity to meet its financial commitments; however, it faces major ongoing uncertainties which could lead to the obligor’s inadequate capacity to meet its financial commitments.
A short-term obligation rated ‘C’ is currently vulnerable to nonpayment and is dependent upon favorable business, financial, and economic conditions for the obligor to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.
A short-term obligation rated ‘D’ is in default or in breach of an imputed promise. For non-hybrid capital instruments, the ‘D’ rating category is used when payments on an obligation are not made on the date due, unless the rating agency believes that such payments will be made within any stated grace period. However, any stated grace period longer than five business days will be treated as five business days. The ‘D’ rating also will be used upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition or the taking of a similar action and where default on an obligation is a virtual certainty, for example due to automatic stay provisions. An obligation’s rating is lowered to ‘D’ if it is subject to a distressed exchange offer.
Why are there no legally binding definitions of rating symbols here? Depending on the subject of the rating and the scope of application, different legal framework conditions apply, which also differ in states of different legal systems. Rating scales are the subject of a development that has lasted for more than a century. Rating agencies continue to develop their scales due to new insights, improved analytical techniques and growing or changing market requirements. Therefore, in each individual case, the evidence of a rating is to be examined as to which statement should be made with a rating. Depending on the time, subject and other conditions, rating symbols are to be interpreted differently. Therefore, we recommend detailed advice. Why are rating agencies not mentioned here by name? It is the responsibility of each rating agency to provide its definitions of rating symbols and, if necessary, to update them. It happens that different rating agencies use the same rating symbols, sometimes with comparable but sometimes with different meanings. The definitions offered by rating agencies need to be questioned because in rare cases the wording of the definitions is ambiguous and promises, for example, a certainty of judgment that we at RATING EVIDENCE can not confirm empirically.