NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government has sued Wells Fargo Bank (NYSE:WFC) in New York, blaming the nation's largest originator of home mortgages for thousands of loan defaults over the last decade.

A civil mortgage fraud lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday seeks to recover hundreds of millions of dollars that the Federal Housing Administration, which insured the loans, had to pay out after borrowers defaulted.

The lawsuit charges San Francisco-based Wells Fargo with falsely certifying that its loans met the standards necessary to be eligible for government insurance. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says the bank's plan to reward employees for the number of loans they approved "was an accelerant to a fire already burning."

This marks the fifth lawsuit that the government has brought against major lenders over mortgage practices.

Wells Fargo & Co. has denied the allegations and is promising a vigorous defense.

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