The U.S. Department of Justice has stepped up a probe in recent weeks into Bear Stearns & Co's mortgage dealings in the run-up to the financial crisis, according to two sources familiar with the situation, raising the possibility that JPMorgan Chase & Co may face yet another case over mortgage bonds.
Justice Department lawyers in Washington have been interviewing people linked to Bear Stearns' mortgage securitization business, EMC Mortgage Corp, over sales of mortgage bonds going into the housing crisis, the sources said.
JPMorgan bought Bear Stearns during the financial crisis in 2008.
The probe, which Reuters first reported in February, has picked up steam in recent weeks and comes in addition to civil and criminal investigations of the bank by U.S. prosecutors in California over its offerings of mortgage bonds.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment. A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment.
On Wednesday, JPMorgan disclosed the California-based investigations by the Justice Department and said the civil division has concluded that the company violated federal securities laws in offerings of subprime and Alt-A residential mortgage securities during 2005 to 2007.
Those investigations, which are being run by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, involve mortgage securities offered by JPMorgan itself, a source familiar with the matter said earlier on Thursday.
JPMorgan is already being sued in nine cases by mortgage insurers that had guaranteed parts of 19 different EMC Mortgage offerings, according to company disclosures.
The bank also faces private suits over mortgage securities issued by Washington Mutual, which was the second failing financial institution that JPMorgan acquired in the financial crisis.
The mortgage investigations are part of a drive by President Barack Obama to hold companies responsible for breaking the law in financing the housing bubble that caused the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession.
The probes come as JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is trying to restore the bank's reputation for controlling risks after losing more than $6.2 billion in 2012 on its so-called "London Whale" derivatives trades.
(Reporting by Emily Flitter, Karen Freifeld and David in New York; Editing by Gary Hill)