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SEC Officials: Lehman Brothers Criminal Case Has Stalled

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LEHMAN TRIAL
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(Reuters) - A government probe into the fall of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc has hit so many snags that enforcement officials fear they may never be able to bring civil or criminal charges against company executives, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

According to the paper, Securities and Exchange Commission officials have begun to doubt they can prove that Lehman broke U.S. laws by moving nearly $50 billion in assets off its balance sheet to make it appear that the securities firm had lowered its debt burden.

Quoting people familiar with the situation, the Journal said SEC officials are also worried they might not win any lawsuit against former Lehman Chief Executive Richard Fuld Jr accusing him of improperly accounting for the value of a large real estate portfolio acquired with the takeover of Archstone-Smith Trust, or to hide losses to investors related to that deal.

If the SEC decides not to file charges against Lehman, the securities firm could escape criminal prosecution because the Justice Department often takes its lead from the SEC, the newspaper said.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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