SEC’s probe of Goldman could widen to other banks

Stevenson Jacobs and Daniel Wagner
AP Business Writers

NEW YORK (AP) – Goldman Sachs stepped up its defense against civil fraud charges Monday, telling clients it did not withhold information in a complex transaction involving risky mortgage securities. But a big question was: Will other big investment banks face similar charges?

In a letter to clients, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. vowed to fight the government’s charges that the bank and one of its vice presidents misled investors by selling complex financial products tied to mortgages that were expected to fail. Both Goldman Sachs and the vice president, Fabrice Tourre, were named in the Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit on Friday…

…many observers, believing that other banks were involved in similar deals, wondered whether more companies would be charged.

An SEC spokesman declined to say Monday whether firms other than Goldman Sachs are under investigation. But financial experts say it’s likely that other big names could find themselves being questioned.

“Wall Street is full of copycats,” said John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia Law School. “Once you know which deals you’re talking about, it’s not hard to see who else was doing it.”

At the height of the housing boom, several big banks were busy packaging and selling investments tied to mortgage securities to meet investor demand. Such securities, called synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, reaped huge fees for banks but later were blamed for creating the credit crisis and worsening the recession.

Among the biggest sellers of CDOs were Merrill Lynch & Co., now part of Bank of America Corp.; Citigroup Inc.; Swiss banking giant UBS; and German bank Deutsche Bank, according to a banking industry official with knowledge of the transactions. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the banks’ dealings…

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