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California attorney general subpoenas CitiGroup over mortgage practices

August 4, 2011 |  2:08 pm

CitiBank California State Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris has subpoenaed CitiGroup Inc. and its banking subsidiary, CitiBank, ordering the two entities to answer questions regarding the selling and marketing of mortgage-backed securities in the Golden State, a person familiar with the investigation said.

The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, would not further characterize the nature of the investigation. Spokespeople for the attorney general’s office and Citi declined to comment.

In May, Harris announced the creation of a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force that would target mortgage fraud of any size. Harris said then that she would tackle corporate fraud, including instances in which bundled mortgages were sold as securities to the state or its pension funds under false pretenses. To prosecute some of the cases, Harris said she would use California's False Claims Act, which makes it a crime to defraud the state.

The probe comes as several other investigations into the practices of other large banks are underway.

New York and Delaware have more than a dozen attorneys working full time on a wide-ranging investigation into Wall Street's role in the mortgage meltdown. Those investigators have subpoenaed or requested information from 13 financial firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Citi is not a focus of that probe.

Citi is one of five large banks negotiating with a committee of all 50 state attorneys general probing banks' servicing and foreclosure practices. Those negotiations are still underway.


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-- Alejandro Lazo

Twitter: @AlejandroLazo

Photo: A CitiBank branch in downtown Washington. Credit: EPA / Matthew Cavanaugh