The U.S. Justice Department has subpoenaed several large firms and agencies as part of an investigation to determine whether Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. misled investors before its Sept. 15 bankruptcy filing, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Those subpoenaed include Lehman, its auditor Ernst & Young, Barclays PLC, the New Jersey Division of Investments, Putnam Investments, BlackRock Inc., American International Group and C.V. Starr & Co.

At the heart of the case is determining whether Lehman failed to disclose its rapidly eroding finances. Federal prosecutors acknowledge that it could be difficult to build a fraud case around those disclosures.

“For a criminal case, they would need to show that at the time of this offering, Lehman knew some bad facts that it didn't tell everybody,” said former prosecutor Christopher Clark. “That will probably be fairly difficult to show. The fact that Lehman was in some financial distress was known to everyone in the world.”

Prosecutors will undoubtedly review financial disclosures, conference call conversations and which shares and assets were sold or repositioned, said former federal prosecutor Andrew Hruska.

“The primary theme is: Was Lehman telling investors one thing and doing another,” he said.

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