Friday, April 13, 2012

Obama administration task force tests rare legal path in financial crisis cases

(Reuters) - An Obama administration task force established to investigate misconduct that fueled the financial crisis is turning to a little-used statute that may make such cases easier to bring, according to people familiar with the matter.

The federal statute, FIRREA, was passed in the wake of the savings-and-loan scandals in the 1980s. It requires a lower burden of proof than criminal charges, has a longer statute of limitations than other financial laws and potentially could bring big fines.

But it has appeared in only a few dozen cases since it was enacted in 1989.

The task force, which is in the Justice Department, used FIRREA earlier this year when it issued more than a dozen civil subpoenas to top financial institutions, including Citigroup, the people familiar with the matter said.

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