Crusading New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer may be ready to turn in his badge.

Eliot Spitzer may be ready to turn in his badge.

After a string of stinging prosecutions that shook up Wall Street, the mutual fund business and the nation’s insurance industry, the New York Attorney General is ready to turn those investigations over to federal regulators, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Spitzer told the newspaper that he believed that the era of state attorneys general prosecuting misdeeds on Wall Street and in corporate America was ending.

“I always said that there’s a real risk to having 50 different enforcement entities,” the paper quoted Spitzer as saying.

The remarks signal a major shift after Spitzer’s high-profile investigations often trumped similar moves by the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal regulators, though Spitzer had stressed he was interested in working in concert with those agencies.

His change of heart came just two weeks after he said he would run for governor of New York in 2006 — a move the newspaper said might lead him to seek campaign contributions from some of the investment banks and other firms he has prosecuted.

Spitzer said the two things were not related, according to the report.

“This has nothing to do with that,” Spitzer, a Democrat, was quoted as saying. “If the feds being to do what they need to do, the relative role of the state agencies would diminish. Nothing I’ve said means that we wouldn’t do all our cases over again.”

A former prosecutor who used family money to run for attorney general, Spitzer more than two years ago accused Merrill Lynch (Research) of publicly pushing stocks that its analysts belittled in private.

The firm apologized and paid $100 million in fines and Spitzer’s probes eventually resulted in $4.4 billion in payments from Wall Street firms.

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