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Goldman could face new SEC charges on mortgage deal

February 28, 2012: 7:24 PM ET

Goldman SachsGoldman Sachs says the SEC is looking into what it told investors about a $1.2 billion subprime bond. Sound familiar.

FORTUNE -- The Vampire Squid may get its tentacles slapped again or worse.

Goldman Sachs said on Tuesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering filing charges against the bank for its role in a late 2006 subprime mortgage bond. The firm said the charges would relate to the disclosures Goldman made as underwriter of an offering of $1.3 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities. Goldman disclosed the investigation in its 10-K, which it filed late Tuesday.

The firm said it was told of the impending charges by the SEC in a Wells notice last Friday. A Wells notice is the SEC's method of telling an individual or firm that it plans to bring charges and gives the subject a chance to argue why the charges shouldn't be filed. In its 10-K, Goldman said, "The firm will be making a submission to, and intends to engage in a dialogue with, the SEC staff seeking to address their concerns." A Goldman spokesman declined to comment on whether any individuals at the firm had received Wells notices as well. In the past the SEC has been criticized for bringing charges against banks without naming specific individuals.

If it is charged, this would be the second time Goldman comes in the crosshairs of the SEC for its role in underwriting mortgage bonds at the height of the financial crisis. In mid-2010, the SEC sued Goldman for failing to tell investors that bonds included in a subprime mortgage security called Abacus had been selected by hedge fund manager John Paulson, who planned to bet against the offering. Goldman paid $550 million to settle the charges with the SEC.

Goldman underwrote $12.9 billion worth of subprime mortgage bonds in 2006. It's not clear what bonds the new SEC charges relate to. In 2007, FORTUNE wrote a story dissecting one $494 billion mortgage bond Goldman underwrote in 2006 in which investors had suffered heavy losses.

Wells Fargo also disclosed on Tuesday that it had received an SEC Wells notice related to disclosures it made related to a subprime mortgage bond. The SEC reportedly is in the process of bringing a new round of charges against banks and Wall Street firms for their mortgage related activities at the end of the subprime mortgage boom.

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About This Author
Stephen Gandel
Stephen Gandel

Stephen Gandel has covered Wall Street and investing for over 15 years. He joins Fortune from sister publication TIME, where he was a senior business writer and lead blogger for The Curious Capitalist. He has also held positions at Money and Crain's New York Business. Stephen is a four-time winner of the Henry R. Luce Award. His work has also been recognized by the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the New York State Society of CPA and the Association of Area Business Publications. He is a graduate of Washington University, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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