UPDATE 1-Greece to probe U.S. banks’ role in crisis-PM

* Greek PM says U.S. banks may face legal action

(Adds further Papandreou comment)

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, May 16 (BestGrowthStock) – Greece may investigate U.S.
investment banks and their role in the run-up to the Greek debt
crisis which has shaken faith in euro zone economies, Prime
Minister George Papandreou said in comments broadcast on Sunday.

Wall Street and major banks around the world are attracting
scrutiny from regulators who are looking at transactions that
occurred in the run-up to the subprime mortgage meltdown and
financial crisis.

U.S. prosecutors are already conducting a broad criminal
investigation of six major Wall Street banks to determine if
they misled investors.

“We are right now having a parliamentary investigation in
Greece which will look into the past and see how things went the
wrong direction and what kinds of practices were negative
practices,” Papandreou told CNN.

“There are similar investigations going on in other
countries and in the United States … I hear the words fraud
and lack of transparency. So yes, there is great responsibility
here,” he said.
Asked whether there was a possibility of legal action
against the banks, he said: “I wouldn’t rule out that this may
be a recourse also … but we need to let the due process
proceed and make our judgments once we get the results from the
investigations.”

The European Union and International Monetary Fund agreed a
110-billion euro ($140-billion) bailout of Greece a week ago
after Greek bond spreads hit record highs which meant Athens
could not service its debts.

The Greek government has been forced to make swingeing
spending cuts and hike taxes in an attempt to reduce its deficit
from some 13 percent of GDP to the euro zone target of 3
percent.

Papandreou said his government had already cut its budget by
40 percent in the first quarter compared to last year and that
revenues from VAT were also up by 10 percent.

But the measures are likely to come at a huge social cost
and investors are watching closely the tide of anger and
protests welling in Greece and looking to see whether
Papandreou’s Socialist government will withstand the public
pressure or go soft on the reform programme.

But even as large protests regularly fill the streets of
Athens, opinion polls show most Greeks believe the EU-IMF
package was necessary to put the country back on track. Most
however believe the burden is being unequally shouldered by
ordinary people, while the wealthy and politicians prosper.

Papandreou said he was determined to succeed.

“What we are saying is that we are ready to make the
changes. Greece is a proud nation, we have made our mistakes, we
are living up to this responsibility, but at the same time give
us a chance, we’ll show you,” he said.
Money

(Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by David Cowell)

UPDATE 1-Greece to probe U.S. banks’ role in crisis-PM