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Barclays agrees to pay $2 billion for selling toxic mortgages before financial crisis

After a three-year investigation, the Justice Department said Thursday that it had reached a $2 billion settlement with Barclays, a giant British bank that federal prosecutors say sold toxic mortgages that contributed to the global financial crisis.

Prosecutors say that between 2005 and 2007 Barclays sold investors packages of mortgages that were worth less than the bank claimed, costing investors billions of dollars. More than half of the $31 billion in mortgage packages eventually defaulted, prosecutors said.

The settlement “is an important step in recognizing the harm that was caused to the national economy,” Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

But for Barclays, the deal may be a triumph. The $2 billion penalty could have been much bigger, industry analysts say. The bank also didn’t have to admit wrongdoing.

Barclays is paying much less than some other big banks who have faced similar allegations had to pay. In 2013, JPMorgan Chase paid $13 billion. In 2014, Bank of America agreed to a record-setting $16 billion settlement. Deutsche Bank paid $7 billion earlier this year.

Unlike many of those big banks, Barclays initially balked at paying a large fine. The Justice Department under the Obama administration was asking for as much as $8 billion from the British bank, according to industry analysts and media reports at the time. The Wall Street Journal reported then that the bank was being asked to pay about $5 billion. But Barclays wanted to pay much less, $1.5 billion to $2 billion, according to various media reports.

When they couldn’t reach an agreement, the Justice Department took the unusual step of suing Barclays in the waning days of the Obama administration. Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch lashed out at the bank. “Barclays jeopardized billions of dollars of wealth through practices that were plainly irresponsible and dishonest,” she said.

via Washington Post

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