February 5th, 2013
06:38 AM GMT
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(CNN) - In a first for a U.S. credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor's has received official notice from Washington that it will face a civil lawsuit over imprecise ratings - now criticized as being too high by analysts, U.S. lawmakers and even S&P itself - of mortgage-backed investments that eventually contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

Many of those investments received AAA ratings, a grade which implies highest safety and least risk, but imploded as the U.S. housing bubble burst.

As S&P awaits further word from the U.S. Department of Justice, ratings agencies Moody's and Fitch will be watching to see if they are next.

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