The U.S. Department of Justice says it is still pursuing cases tied to the height of the financial crisis in 2008 and using lessons learned from those probes to examine new areas like subprime car loans.

Ratings agency S&P on Tuesday agreed to pay $1.5 billion to settle U.S. and state lawsuits over mortgage ratings issued in the run-up to the crisis.

That brings to more than $38 billion the amount that U.S. authorities have won in settlements from Wall Street firms since November 2013 over crisis-related activities. Despite the ample monetary settlements, U.S. prosecutors have been widely disparaged for failing to convict many senior Wall Street executives.

Stuart Delery, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department and a key negotiator in the S&P deal, said investigations tied to the financial crisis "are continuing, and they are very active."

Officials are also drawing lessons from these cases "to turn our attention to the next types of financial fraud, whatever they might happen to be," he said in an interview with Reuters ahead of the S&P settlement announcement.

Delery, pointed to investigations into the securitization of auto loans as one such area.

He declined to discuss details of any of the ongoing cases stemming from the financial crisis, but people familiar with the matter said global bank Morgan Stanley and other banks are still expected to face multi-billion dollar cases related to their mortgage securities activity.

Both Morgan Stanley and rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc have disclosed that they received subpoenas and requests for information from an investigatory working group that includes the Justice Department and several states.

Morgan Stanley said in a November regulatory filing that a probe involving its crisis-era loan conduct was in "advanced stages."

A Morgan Stanley spokesman declined comment. A Goldman representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Delery also said the fact that seven years have passed since the height of the crisis is not an issue, when asked if S&P rival Moody's might be off the hook for any similar conduct.

Sources have said that a Justice Department investigation into Moody's remains at an early stage.

"I don't think we're declining to bring cases just because of the passage of time, if we thought we could make a case. Sometimes these things unfortunately take a very long time," he said.

A Moody's spokesman declined comment.

It is unclear how many more big cases in the area are yet to come, given that some of the largest have already been resolved, and the government only has a few more years to bring additional actions under a statute of limitations that is at most 10 years.

New Targets

Regarding new areas of focus, Delery said department lawyers are using the investigative techniques and contacts from the mortgage securities investigations to confront the next wave of potential financial fraud.

Delery said there were parallels between home loan securitizations and auto loan securitizations, though he declined to discuss specific investigations.