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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering bringing civil fraud charges against rating agencies on the basis that the agencies did not adequately research mortgage-backed securities, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal reports that the SEC is looking at Standard & Poor's practices, as well as at Moody's Investors Service's involvement with at least two mortgage securitization deals. The regulator is reportedly examining whether the rating agencies used outdated information to form their analyses. The Journal additionally notes that the investigation may not ultimately lead to litigation.

Last month, the SEC voted to propose new rules that would implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act and strengthen existing oversight of nationally recognized statistical rating organizations. Among the proposals is a requirement for rating agencies to publicly provide disclosure about their credit ratings and the methodology used to determine them.


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