News / Economy

US Preparing Civil Charges Against Citigroup, Merrill Lynch

FILE - A Citi Bank sign in Chicago.
FILE - A Citi Bank sign in Chicago.
Reuters
The U.S. Justice Department is preparing to file civil fraud charges against Citigroup Inc and Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit over their sale of flawed mortgage securities ahead of the financial crisis, according to people familiar with the probes.

Civil investigators have compiled evidence that allegedly shows that investors lost tens of billions of dollars after purchasing securities Citigroup had marketed as safe even though the bank had reason to believe otherwise, one person said.

An investigation into the mortgage securities marketed by Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America agreed to acquire at the height of the crisis in 2008, is also close to completion, two other people said.

Probes against Royal Bank of Scotland and Credit Suisse are also underway and progressing, according to another two people familiar with those cases.

Representatives for all four banks declined to comment.

The U.S. banking industry, which faces a range of mortgage-related lawsuits, has contended that many of the alleged investor losses can be attributed to the financial crisis, and that they should not be held liable for marketing a variety of mortgage securities that ultimately soured.

The Justice Department has not determined the exact timing of upcoming lawsuits, the sources said, although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Reuters earlier this month that the department planned to bring more mortgage-related cases in early 2014, while declining to name which companies were targeted.

The probes could also lead to settlements instead of lawsuits.

The cases stem from a government task force the Obama administration created in early 2012 to probe the sale of shoddy home loans repackaged for investors.

Last month, JPMorgan Chase entered a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department and other agencies, to resolve charges that the bank overstated the quality of mortgages it was selling to investors.

The Department of Justice trumpeted that settlement as a big step toward holding banks accountable for their behavior before the financial crisis, and authorities have dedicated dozens of investigators to bringing similar lawsuits against other major Wall Street firms.

A representative from the Justice Department declined to comment.

Goldman Sachs has also disclosed it is under investigation and that future claims from the task force could result in a “significant increase” in the company's liabilities.

While the investigation against Citigroup is the furthest along, disagreements about where that case might be filed could potentially push Merrill Lynch ahead, said one person familiar with the matter.

Lawyers at the U.S. Attorney's offices in Brooklyn and in Colorado are both investigating Citigroup, and both want the high-profile case to be filed in their district, this person said. Officials are expected to meet this week to try to resolve the dispute, the source said.

Representatives from the U.S. Attorney's offices in Colorado and Brooklyn declined comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey, which is investigating Merrill Lynch, also declined comment.

Royal Bank of Scotland is also under investigation and could face charges as early as the first half of 2014, sources said.

The Justice Department has also recently received further evidence, including internal communication records, regarding the mortgage activities of Swiss bank Credit Suisse, according to one person familiar with that case.

The source said the evidence shows Credit Suisse's mortgage lending arm ignored red flags about its processes for signing off on loans and pushed to increase the output of them for the bank to bundle into securities. It is unclear how advanced that overall investigation is.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8982
JPY
USD
121.07
GBP
USD
0.6376
CAD
USD
1.2215
INR
USD
63.612

Rates may not be current.