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The Mysterious Fourteen

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So who is on this list of 14 companies under investigation by the FBI for their involvement in the subprime mortgage crisis? The FBI apparently intends to keep us in suspense because they won’t give details. All we know is that they are looking into “allegations of fraud at various stages of the mortgage process, from companies that bundled the loans into securities to the banks that ended up holding them.”
So let’s recklessly speculate. Two companies that are sure to be on the list are Bear Stearns—which is already under investigation by federal prosecutors and the SEC—and Countrywide, which is both the biggest home loan lender and also facing an SEC inquiry. Goldman Sachs is very likely on the list. It was accused on the pages of the Sunday New York Times of misleading clients by packaging CDOs while shorting the mortgage market. We know that at least one Senator read the article and has been making a stink, and we know that federal investigators often get their leads by reading the paper. What’s more, Goldman Sachs has said that it is cooperating with an unnamed government agency.
Morgan Stanley has also admitted to cooperating with unnamed government authorities. At first, everyone assumed this was the SEC. But why wouldn’t they come out and say that? More likely they declined to name the agency out of fear that saying they were cooperating with the FBI would tar them with serious criminality—rather than the everyday Wall Street shenanigans implied by an SEC investigation.
So that gives us four good leads. Who else is a cylon on the list? No doubt some additional mortgage companies and some home builders. Maybe the ratings agencies are also. Leave your guesses in the comments section below.
FBI Launches Subprime Probe [Wall Street Journal]