The McConnell Bind

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2013 2:38 PM
To: Greg Brock, senior editor, Standards, New York Times
Subject: Error: American history, credit scores

Thank you for replying.  See today’s message and your response at (“The McConnell Bind”).

Recently, I have been looking into media accuracy, errors and corrections and their consequences.  Here are two more errors that exist on your website.

In “Obama Presses Israel to Make ‘Hard Choices,’” dated May 23, 2011, you published, “’The U.S. ought not to be trying to push Israel into a deal that’s not good for Israel,’ the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’”

And, in “Framing the Debate” (February 25, 2010), you state, “Republicans, including the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the House leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, have called on Mr. Obama to discard the plan unveiled on Monday, as well as the bills adopted by the House and Senate late last year, and to start over.”

Of course, Mitch McConnell is not (and has never been) Senate Majority Leader.  Will you make a correction today?

Having received no response about an issue I raised—after your publisher’s office acknowledged my message over two months ago—I am binding your American history errors to those about employers and credit scores and credit score statistical distribution.

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
Page A2
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342


To: Howard Marks, billionaire

Your website states: “About 25.5% of consumers — or 43.4 million people — had credit scores below 600 in April, according to FICO Inc. Historically, only about 15% of consumers — or 25.5 million — have had scores below that level, FICO said.”

You are mistaken.

A trend illustrated by credit score company Fair Isaac (FICO) indicates this, from 2005 through 2011:

23.6 – 23.3 – 23.8 – 24.1 – 25.1 – 25.5 – 24.7

A June, 2011 report by an organization named Demos cites your article.

What is the name of the person at Fair Isaac who was the source for those statistics?  If you refer to written information, what are the names of those documents, and who provided them?

What is your corrections policy?


Editorial distribution

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Thursday, April 11, 2013 8:33 AM
To: Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher, New York Times
Subject: credit score, distribution, New York Times

See this message and your response at

In an editorial, you published, “But the proportion of people with poor ratings — credit scores under 600 — has grown from about 15 percent in the years before the recession to about 25 percent in 2011.”

According to Fair Isaac, in its FICO 8 credit score model, from 2005 to 2011, the percentage of those under 600 [alternate link, added 2014-02-13] was never lower than 23.

What is the name of the person who wrote that editorial?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

Discover Bank Discover Card

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 12:38 PM
To: David W. Nelms, chairman & CEO, Discover Bank
Subject: Your Credit Score and the Price You Pay for Credit disclosure, Discover Bank, distribution

See this message and your response at

Your disclosure titled, “Your Credit Score and the Price You Pay for Credit” states, “Scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850.”

However, the next section of the document indicates that the scale is 341 to 850 (the bar graph of the distribution is captioned “FICO® Credit Score Range”).

That is illogical, but begs an illogical question.  What percentage of the credit scores in the population range from 300 to 340?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

Average credit scores by state

Recently, Fair Isaac (FICO) asked the provocative question, “How does your #FICO Score compare to the rest of the US?”

The accompanying link leads a new homepage at the company’s consumer-oriented website,  It features an interactive map of the United States on which you can see a national average credit score (692) and averages for individual states.  The state with the highest average credit score in the country is North Dakota, at 720.

The map below shows the above average states in green, and the below average states in white.

US states with above average credit scores

The state-by-state breakdown is a departure for FICO, who has never answered the same type of illustration published years ago by national consumer reporting agency and competitor Experian.  Unfortunately the basis for the Experian map was the infamous Fake-O score, the PLUS score.  But despite that, let’s face it:  It was, frankly, full of Fake-O FICO funky fun.  Fair Isaac gets that.

Today, for its part, Experian seems to have moved on to yet another gambit: The highly-touted (media are suckers for anything new), VantageScore. (the address that previously hosted the map) now forwards to something called Live Credit Smart (click on “The State of Credit” on the left menu).  The interactive PLUS score map (similar to FICO’s) that was on the homepage at is now at (if you care).

Confused about which score is relevant?  You should be.  In 2008, FICO told that the TransUnion version sold on is FICO Risk Score, Classic 98 which is not the model mentioned in the Fannie Mae lending guidelines (section B3-5.1-01 (p. 427, pdf p. 455)).  On the other hand, the Equifax score at myFICO is, indeed, the same score mentioned by Fannie.  But, the one thing that the score used for mortgage lending or even the score is not is something called “FICO 8.”  Fair Isaac states, “When a significant number of lenders have upgraded, we will work with the credit reporting agencies to provide FICO 8 scores to consumers here on myFICO.”

Yet, FICO 8 is the score model in countless blog posts by FICO personnel as if it is significant.  They have not mentioned the shiny new map.  Yesterday’s commentary about the distribution of consumers by score doesn’t even bring it up.

It is anybody’s guess which score model is represented in the US state map.  And it used to be all about the median not the mean (“average”).  And there is a new AOR (with the typical, cliché wordplay right in the press release title).  And a new CEO, a board member.  And no coming to terms with the employers thing even as the rest of the world is enlightened (albeit with, in one case, a strange, contradictory result).  Still, some keep the myth going.

Wonks, you have got to love this.  Stay tuned.

credit score, distribution, MONEY, Time Warner

Yesterday, following a message from, Time Warner made a correction to its story.  Money Girl did not respond.

Here is another message to Time Warner, sent moments ago:

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 9:17 AM
To: Ismat Sarah Mangla, writer, MONEY, Time Warner
Subject: credit score, distribution, MONEY, Time Warner

See this message and your response at and

You wrote: “Chances are your score is in the top tier: 750 or above out of 850 on the FICO scale. (Check yours for $20 at That alone qualifies you for membership in a fairly exclusive club : Only a third of Americans have achieved such a high number.”

Who is your source regarding the credit score distribution? 

What indicates the one third figure?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

Gannett cites FICO as its source

[previous email to author]

From: Susan Tompor, columnist, Detroit Free Press
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 11:10 AM
Subject: RE: Credit scores fall, Detroit Free Press II

The source on this was FICO.



From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 1:10 PM
To: Susan Tompor, columnist, Detroit Free Press
Subject: RE: Credit scores fall, Detroit Free Press, 25.5

What is the name of the person representing Fair Isaac who—or what document—is your source regarding the notion that 10 percent is the ideal proportion of balances to credit limits?

Fair Isaac claims that the percentage of consumers who have a FICO score under 600 is 23.8%, not 25.5.  25.5% is a figure that represents consumers who fall under 600 in FICO 8, a credit score model not accepted in the automated underwriting guidelines of the two government-sponsored housing enterprises, and not even provided to consumers by Fair Isaac.  What is the name of the person representing Fair Isaac who—or what document—is your source regarding the 25.5% statistic?

Where do you publish corrections or clarifications for errors of fact?

You failed to answer that question.  Do you refuse to answer it, or do you not know the answer? question invalidates Wikipedia

On July 19, 2010, Fair Isaac responded to an inquiry by regarding odd, inconsistent claims about the FICO credit score distribution.  Fair Isaac responded that its distribution chart was out of date and would be replaced.  The Associated Press did not reply.

The FICO score company removed the chart, but has not replaced it, and that has made Wikipedia’s article Credit score (United States) unverified for months.  In fact, it still states, “A FICO score is between 300 and 850, exhibiting a left-skewed distribution with 60% of scores near the right between 650 and799.[12]”

Wikipedia’s footnote #12 is a link to a page that supported the statement with a chart illustrating a bell curve distribution.  However, there is no longer anything about 650 or 799 on the Fair Isaac page, so that eliminates Wikipedia’s verification of its claim about the distribution.

Meanwhile, the Wikipedians argue over crucial issues like cheap vs. inexpensive, and, of course, the lots/a lot controversy that was infinitely more important than correcting the distribution reference.

A previous error by Wikipedia regarding credit scores lasted for 654 days.

Wikipedia looks like an encyclopedia, but is really just a message board.  Just ask Tyler.

CNBC draws USA TODAY into the fray

A story on CNBC’s website stated:

But how possible is it really to achieve an 850, and is it worth the effort? says that only .5 – 1 percent of consumers have achieved this golden number. asked CNBC for the name a person who, or the address of a document that, is the source of that statistic.  Rather than naming its source, CNBC replied that a myFICO representative said that 13 percent have a score over 800.  CNBC changed its story so that it said this:

But how possible is it really to achieve a perfect score, and is it worth the effort? reports that only 13% percent[SIC] of consumers have achieved scores over 800.

USA TODAY republished the CNBC article.

However, in July, USA TODAY published an Associated Press report that said:

On the positive side, the number of consumers who have a top score of 800 or above has increased in recent years. At least in part, this reflects that more individuals have cut spending and paid down debt in response to the recession. Their ranks now stand at 17.9%, which is notably above the historical average of 13%, though down from 18.7% in April 2008 before the market meltdown.

In July, Fair Isaac said that it would replace its distribution chart.  It has not done so.

The enigmatic realm of credit scores at CNBC

Following a question from regarding a CNBC claim that “only .5 – 1 percent of consumers” have achieved an 850 credit score, CNBC amended a January 4th story on its website.  The error and its correction is not documented.

The original statement was, “ says that only .5 – 1 percent of consumers have achieved this golden number.

The corrected statement is, “ reports that only 13% percent[SIC] of consumers have achieved scores over 800.”

However, in July, (after questions from about an Associated Press report) Fair Isaac, the company who owns myFICO, removed the distribution chart that included the 13 percent statistic, and said that it would replace it.  The credit score company, still, has not provided the replacement.

Despite that, in October, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission heard remarks from the National Consumer Law Center regarding a conclusion cobbled together about the credit score national distribution.  The NCLC’s notion that one-quarter of consumers have a credit score under 600 was attributed to Fair Isaac, and the notion that those under 600 comprised only 15 percent before “the Great Recession” was attributed to the Associated Press. 

A FICO spokesman said that the AP used the 15 percent statistic “as a proxy for a pre-recession distribution curve.”

On April 13, introducing a segment titled “Credit Check: Career Killer?,” a CNBC anchor asked, “Does a credit score– especially a high one– indicate a better applicant?”

The consumer reporting agencies all claim that they do not provide credit scores for employment purposes.