U.S. asks judge to deny S&P's motion to dismiss fraud lawsuit


The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked a federal judge to deny Standard & Poor's motion to dismiss a government lawsuit against the ratings agency, saying its statements on certain financial products were fraudulent and not mere "puffery".

In a $5 billion suit, the U.S. government has accused S&P, owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc , of issuing inflated ratings on faulty products to drum up business before the 2008 financial crisis, despite assurances that its judgments were objective.

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S&P has denounced the lawsuit, filed in February in the Los Angeles District Court, and accuses the government of cherry-picking emails to misconstrue what its analysts did.

The agency last month asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the government's case was based on vague statements that could not prove fraud.

In its defense, S&P cited a federal court ruling, upheld by an appeals court, that described statements made about its independence as insufficient evidence for a fraud conviction.

The Justice Department argued in a court filing on Monday that far from being mere "puffery", S&P made those statements knowing they would be "relied on by investors".

S&P could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

The case is in re USA vs McGraw-Hill Companies, Case No. 2:13-00779, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

(This story has been corrected to fix company name to McGraw Hill Financial Inc from McGraw-Hill Companies Inc in paragraph two)

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Stephen Coates)