Edward Gotschall, co-founder of New Century Financial Corp. — once one of the largest subprime lenders in the nation  —  died late last week of natural causes, according to a report in The Orange County Register. He was 53.

New Century's collapse is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

Gotschall and three others founded New Century in 1995. He managed the books of the publicly traded company and worked with Wall Street investment banking firms. The company failed in early 2007.

At one time, Merrill Lynch had considered buying it but passed on the deal. At its peak it was funding $60 billion in mortgages, according to the Quarterly Data Report.

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