The panel probing the financial crisis has zeroed in on Citigroup Inc. guarantees used to spur sales of mortgage-backed debt that ended up costing the company $14 billion.

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission investigators may conclude that a primary cause of Citigroup's 2008 bailout was traders' use of "liquidity puts" to bolster sales, the panel's chairman, Phil Angelides, said in an interview Monday. Those puts allowed customers to sell debt securities back to the bank at face value if credit markets froze, something that Citigroup's traders bet would never happen, according to Angelides.

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