These passages are buried in the McClatchy story, and hedged to a fare-thee-well, so I don’t want to make, you know, a federal case out of it. But certainly, it’s better to keep the record clear of such reports unless and until they can be confirmed.

Put it this way, if the FBI opened criminal probes of S&P, Moody’s, etc., it’s the lede.

And there’s a bigger point: if the FBI was “looking at” the raters, so what? Has anyone noticed that when it comes to financial crimes, among many, many other crimes, the FBI leaks more hot air than can fill several Ameriquest blimps? How many investigations are “opened” and “launched,” via strategic leaks in the glare of media coverage and public outrage, never to be heard from again? Here’s one view: Way too many.

The financial media, to my mind, has long given this outfit far more credit and credibility in white-collar matters than it deserves. This is an agency with feet of clay. For years, if it wasn’t for Robert Morgenthau, then Eliot Spitzer, forcing their federal counterparts out of their undisclosed locations, you’d never hear from them. Enough about the FBI “looking at,” “launching probes of,” and “investigating” things. Let’s see it make a case for a change, or at least make a formal inquiry that would require disclosure.

Who knows? The FBI might be the story after all. But for now, lay off the weasel words. It’s not fair to the “looked at” parties, and it gives the FBI way too much credit.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.