Cuomo Confirms Probe of Fidelity, Goldman Sachs

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The New York Sun

The New York attorney general’s office said today it is investigating whether brokers at Fidelity Investments were given incentives by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to sell auction-rate securities to investors.

Investigators are examining if Fidelity pitched auction-rate securities that were underwritten by Goldman Sachs because it received other services from the investment bank. A spokesman for Attorney General Cuomo confirmed the investigation, but declined to provide further details.

Mr. Cuomo is leading an investigation into how major Wall Street investment banks and smaller financial companies pitched auction-rate securities to customers. The securities were marketed as being as safe as cash until the market froze up amid the credit crisis, causing investors to lose money.

Spokesmen for Goldman Sachs and Fidelity were not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Cuomo, leading the investigation on behalf of state and federal authorities, has reached deals with investment banks to buy back more than $50 billion worth of auction-rate securities from eight global banks. Goldman Sachs agreed to buy back about $1.5 billion in securities still held by private clients that were purchased through the firm before February 11. It also agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine.

The auction-rate securities market involved investors buying and selling instruments that resembled corporate debt, but the interest rates on the investments were reset at regular auctions, some as frequently as once a week.

The market for them collapsed in February amid the downturn in the broader credit markets. Regulators have been investigating the collapse to determine who was responsible for its demise and whether banks knowingly misrepresented the safety of the securities when selling them to investors.


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