The issuer default ratings of Chicago-based Equity Residential and ERP Operating LP have been downgraded from A to A-minus by Fitch Ratings, which cited "a strategic shift" in the company's capital structure and philosophy.Fitch also downgraded Equity Residential's preferred stock ratings from A-minus to BBB-plus and ERP's debt ratings from A to A-minus. The outlook is stable. The rating agency said Equity Residential's "fairly aggressive" debt-funded stock buyback program has put pressure on its financial and operating flexibility. "Moreover, the recent announcement by the company's board of directors authorizing the purchase of $500 million in company common stock, on the heels of its recent purchases of $585 million of company stock (under a separate $700 million authorization plan) signals a shift in EQR's leverage and risk appetite," Fitch said. Equity Residential, a multifamily real estate investment trust, can be found online at http://www.equityapartments.com.

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