The trustee for bankrupt subprime giant New Century Financial Corp. is suing the lender's auditor, KPMG, for $1 billion in damages, charging that it abetted the firm in misstating its true financial condition.

Among other things, the trustee accuses the auditor with negligence noting that KPMG "did not act as a watchdog." The bankruptcy trustee is represented by the California law firm of Thomas, Alexander & Forrester, which filed claims in New York and California.

New Century, whose shares once traded as high as $55, collapsed in the spring of 2007, wiping out shareholders. At its peak, the nation's second largest subprime lender had a market capitalization of almost $3 billion. KPMG issued a statement denying that it was responsible for New Century's collapse, saying it acted "in accordance with professional standards."

The accounting firm said it would vigorously fight the lawsuits. A report issued last summer said creditors of NCFC are owed as much as $1.6 billion. KPMG's predecessor firms were sued for negligence by federal regulators during the S&L crisis. Some of those claims were settled out of court.

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