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Standard & Poor’s mortgage ratings investigated by US

Justice department investigation started before credit rating agency downgraded US this month

The US justice department is investigating Standard & Poor’s rating of mortgage securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

The New York Times reported the investigation began before S&P, the nation’s largest credit ratings agency, cut the US’s highly prized AAA credit rating earlier this month.

The justice department has been asking about instances in which the agency’s analysts wanted to award lower ratings on mortgage bonds but may have been overruled by other S&P business managers.

It is unclear whether the investigation also involves the other two credit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch.

During the boom years, the ratings agencies made bumper profits as they awarded top ratings to bundles of troubled mortgage loans, which made them appear less risky. The agencies have been heavily criticised for failing to anticipate problems with the mortgages, which triggered the global financial crisis. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds