SEC using new enforcement powers to probe trading before U.S. credit downgrade

Proving information was leaked could be challenging because many traders were expecting the downgrade, Financial Times report says.

Seeking to flex its oversight muscle that was strengthened by the Dodd-Frank law last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission has asked Standard & Poor's to disclose which people in the credit-rating agency knew about its decision to downgrade U.S. debt, the Financial Times reported.

The government agency is beginning an investigation into any potential insider trading around the downgrade.

The SEC's exam group, headed by Carlo di Florio, is conducting the probe. The exam staff can refer people to the SEC's enforcement division if it believes they broke the law. Despite the investigation, the agency is not aware of any leaks from S&P staff or any suspect trades.

Moreover, the Financial Times wrote, proving that any information was leaked or used to gain an advantage in trading could be challenging because many traders were expecting the downgrade and used that to their advantage without inside information.