Subpoenas issued to financial firms in expanded probe

Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:57pm EST
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By Aruna Viswanatha and James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Justice Department issued civil subpoenas to 11 financial institutions as part of a new effort to investigate misconduct in the packaging and sale of home loans to investors, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday.

Holder declined to provide specifics, including the names of the firms.

"We are wasting no time in aggressively pursuing any and all leads," Holder said at a news conference announcing details of a new working group to investigate misconduct in the residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market, "you can expect more to follow."

President Barack Obama said he directed Holder to create the new unit in his State of the Union speech late Tuesday, saying it was needed to "help turn the page on an era of recklessness."

On Friday a slew of federal and state officials appeared at the news conference to provide details about the new group.

Housed within an earlier financial fraud task force that Obama created in 2009, it is expected to be staffed with around 50 attorneys, analysts and agents, officials said.

Some skeptics have questioned whether the new group is largely a political move because the other fraud task force already exists.

Also, the Obama administration has received heat from left-leaning activist groups that believe a separate effort to investigate misconduct in processing foreclosures and servicing home loans may not be rigorous enough to extract a meaningful settlement.   Continued...

<p>A vacant home for sale is pictured in Yonkers, New York, October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>