Financial institutions filed a record 15,000 suspicious activity reports (including instances of mortgage fraud) with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the first fiscal quarter of this year. If the pace keeps up, more than 60,000 SARs will be filed, outstripping 2007, when 46,717 reports hit the system. In a briefing on Jan. 29, FBI officials said the agency has 14 major "corporate fraud" investigations under way involving mortgage or related companies. The focus, officials said, was on subprime firms, their accounting and lending practices, and insider trading. The agency did not specify any cases, but it is well known that the collapse of New Century Financial Corp. of Irvine, Calif., is the subject of a major probe. As previously reported, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the failure of several subprime firms, focusing on -- among other things -- their investment bankers, including Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley.

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