Federal investigators at the FBI have opened a criminal investigation of 14 mortgage-related companies, focusing on alleged accounting fraud, insider trading and securitization practices, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday afternoon. Even bankrupt firms aren't free from the scrutiny, with the Journal quoting FBI economic crimes chief Neil Power as saying that investigators were combing the books of failed mortgage lenders to identify if evidence of wrongdoing exists -- given that there aren't that many really, really large failed lenders, it's probably not too hard to guess which firms are included in that group of 14. Even if the FBI isn't naming names right now. From the WSJ:
FBI officials say the bureau has 1,200 mortgage fraud cases under investigation and that they believe many more cases are in the offing, based on the number of so-called suspicious activity reports filed by banks. The number of SARs documented by the FBI has rocketed from 35,000 in 2006, to 48,000 in 2007, and are projected to reach 60,000 in 2008. "We have observed that subprime loans are decreasing, but the suspicious activity reports we see…have noted that suspicions of mortgage fraud are increasing," said Sharon Ormsby, the financial crimes section chief in the FBI's criminal investigative division.
The FBI's investigation coincides with similar probes already underway at the Securities and Exchange Commintion, the Journal reported.