The federal government is investigating the agency that recently downgraded America's credit rating.
The Justice Department is looking into whether Standard and Poor's improperly rated mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis, according to a report published by The New York Times Wednesday.
Authorities say the investigation began before Standard & Poor's lowered America's AAA credit rating this month.
Observers predict the investigation will add to the political firestorm surrounding the downgrade.
The Justice Department has been asking about instances in which the company's analysts wanted to award lower ratings on mortgage bonds but may have been overruled by other S&P business managers.
The Times article cited two people interviewed by the government and another briefed on such interviews as its sources.
The Times said the Securities and Exchange Commission also has been investigating possible wrongdoing at S&P, citing a person interviewed on that matter.
Ed Sweeney, a spokesman for S&P, said in an email to the Times: "S&P has received several requests from different government agencies over the last few years. We continue to cooperate with these requests. We do not prevent such agencies from speaking with current or former employees."
Representatives of the Justice Department and the SEC declined to comment on the reports.