NEW YORK — It was the credit card business that paved the way for Spiegel’s credit crunch, but it was fear that led to the company’s decision to hide for more than eight months an auditor’s report warning about the company’s ability to “continue as a going concern,” according to an new regulatory filing.

Last March Spiegel partially settled a civil lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, charging it with failure to make public in 2002 an outside auditor’s concerns about the Downers Grove, Ill.-based firm’s financial condition. Spiegel did not admit or deny the allegations. As part of the settlement, Stephen Crimmins, an attorney at the law firm of Pepper Hamilton and a former SEC enforcement attorney, was named examiner to review the retailer’srecords from as far back as Jan. 1, 2000. His report was filed with the SEC on Friday.

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