There’s a new player in the corporate ratings game who is introducing a business model very different from the one used by more established agencies. Morningstar announced today that its research team that analyzes companies from an equity investment perspective will apply some additional metrics to come up with corporate credit ratings. It released a list of the first 100 companies it has rated. Click here to see the ratings. An interesting twist is how Morningstar will make money on this new service. Firms like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch charge issuers of debt securities to analyze them and come up with ratings. And that model has led to criticism about how impartial the ratings agencies actually are when they are being paid by an issuer for a rating. That criticism really heated up following the subprime mortgage disaster. Mortgage-backed securities were issued a few years ago with AAA ratings, many of which eventually blew up because the subprime mortgages that backed the securities were no good. So, Morningstar will give away its ratings for free but will charge institutional investors for a service that compares comparably rated bonds and their secondary market prices to determine whether they are overvalued or undervalued. Obviously, you get pricing distortions in illiquid markets, which is what many corporate bonds become once they are seasoned. But that said, it is good to see someone taking a stab at a new ratings model.