NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Securities regulators have sent subpoenas to hedge funds and other firms as they probe possible insider trading before the U.S. government's long-term credit rating was cut last month, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Securities and Exchange Commission officials demanded more information about specific trades made shortly before Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S.'s rating to double-A-plus from triple-A on Aug. 5, the people said.

SEC officials are zeroing in on firms that bet the stock market would tumble, the Journal said.

It's not clear what investment firms have received subpoenas. An SEC spokesman declined to comment for the Journal. But the subpoenas are unusually broad, seeking information about why certain trades were made, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Some of the recipients also were asked which person at their investment firm first heard about the S&P downgrade, when they were told about it and by whom, the person told the Journal.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joseph Woelfel

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.