Geithner must give S&P documents in U.S. fraud lawsuit: filing

Wed May 14, 2014 5:52am EDT
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(Reuters) - A federal judge ruled that former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner must hand over documents to Standard and Poor's relating to the ratings agency's claim that the United States sued it in retaliation for downgrading government debt.

The U.S. Department of Justice brought a civil fraud lawsuit against S&P in 2013, accusing it of inflating ratings to win more fees from issuers, and then failing to downgrade debt backed by deteriorating mortgage-backed securities fast enough.

S&P, a unit of McGraw Hill Financial Inc MHFI.N, has claimed the lawsuit was filed in retaliation for the downgrade, and should be dismissed. Its main rating agency rivals, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, were not sued.

U.S. District Judge David Carter denied both Geithner's request to set aside S&P's subpoena and a similar request made by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Terrence Checki, the bank's executive vice president.

"This incremental approach has the virtues of affording S&P an opportunity to gather the information that it needs to defend itself, while according due respect to the time and autonomy of high-ranking executive officials," Judge Carter wrote in an order on Tuesday.

Geithner is the highest former government official S&P has pursued for information to support its allegations.

"As for any future depositions of Secretary Geithner or Mr Checki, the court will cross that bridge when it comes to it," the court filing stated.

Jenni LeCompte, a spokeswoman for Geithner, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Representatives of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York were not immediately available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

Last month, Carter gave S&P access to Department of Justice documents it had sought for its claim that the lawsuit may have been in retaliation for its August 2011 decision to remove the United States' "triple-A" credit rating.   Continued...

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speaks at the Institute of International Finance (IIF)'s annual meeting in Tokyo October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao