Federal authorities are investigating 14 companies as part of a wide-ranging subprime mortgage investigation focusing on loan securitization, accounting fraud and insider trading, according to The Wall Street Journal. The investigations are being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which did not identify the companies targeted in the probe. The bureau said it would look into allegations of fraud by companies at various stages of the securitization process, from those that assembled the loans to the banks that ended up holding them. The bureau is also reviewing the books of financial services firms that have been forced into bankruptcy as a result of the mortgage crisis, to look for instances of insider trading and other wrongdoing, Neil Power, the chief of the FBI's economic crimes unit in Washington told the newspaper. Also, the bureau has 1,200 mortgage fraud cases under investigation and that they believe many more cases are in the offing, based on the number of so-called suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks. The number of SARs documented by the FBI has rocketed from 35,000 in 2006, to 48,000 in 2007, and is projected to reach 60,000 in 2008, according to officials. The bureau is working with the SEC, which has opened more than three dozen investigations in the subprime mortgage business, including the role of investment banks.
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