The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp. for possible securities fraud, according to law-enforcement officials and finance-industry executives, the Wall Street Journal rerpots.


The inquiry involves whether company officials made misrepresentations about the company's financial position and the quality of its mortgage loans in securities filings, four people with knowledge of the matter said. It is at an early stage, they emphasized.


"We are not aware of an investigation being conducted by the FBI," Countrywide spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said in an e-mail. A spokesman for Bank of America Corp., which is in the midst of acquiring Countrywide, declined to comment.


Fifteen other subprime companies also are under scrutiny by federal agents and prosecutors in a broad look at the subprime industry sparked by huge losses on residential mortgages and the securities used to fund them. The investigations are examining mortgage-origination fraud, conflicts of interest and undisclosed relationships within the industry, and the practices used to package mortgage-backed securities for sale to investors.


Countrywide issued more than $100 billion in mortgage-backed securities between 2004 and 2007, according to the newsletter Asset Backed Alert. More than two dozen Wall Street firms helped construct those deals, making it possible that some of them will also face law-enforcement scrutiny.


While Countrywide is based in Calabasas, Calif., near Los Angeles, the inquiry is being handled in New York and overseen in Washington, people familiar with the matter said. Federal prosecutors in New York have primary jurisdiction over securities-fraud cases, while FBI and Justice Department officials are coordinating the subprime probes here.

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