US banks face fresh home loans inquiry

A COMMISSION set up by the US government to investigate the roots of the global financial crisis is probing the banks’ sales of billions of dollars worth of bad home loans.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) is understood to be planning to help an investigation by the New York Attorney-General into whether banks caused ratings’ agencies to give top credit ratings to poor mortgage products.

US financial and legal authorities are already investigating the country’s biggest banks over claims that they sold poor quality mortgages during the housing boom.

Washington created the FCIC last year to examine the domestic and global causes of the financial and economic crisis in the US.

The commission – which has the right to ask banks and others to surrender documents – plans to look into any “fraud and abuse in the financial sector, including fraud and abuse towards consumers in the mortgage sector”.

It plans to hand over any evidence that its investigation uncovers to federal prosecutors.

A spokesman for the FCIC confirmed it would be studying mortgages as part of its wider investigation, which will cover issues such as securitisation, credit ratings agencies, shadow banking systems and complex financial derivatives.

The spokesman said: “We have been asked by Congress to investigate the causes of the financial crisis.”

He added: “Certainly part of that charge is examining the creation, packaging, and selling of mortgages. Within the investigation, there are topics of interest to us and [mortgages] is an area we are looking into.”

Congress appointed the 10 members of the bi-partisan commission, with significant experience in banking, market regulation, taxation, finance, economics, housing, and consumer protection, last July.