The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has launched criminal investigations into approximately 50 banking executives involved in the financial crisis, AP reports.

Deputy Inspector General Fred Gibson said Wednesday the inspector general's office at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has been probing the role of the executives in bank failures around the country.

Bank executives could face prison terms if convicted of criminal charges. But the burden of proof is higher than in civil cases and usually involves showing deliberate intent to commit fraud or other violations. The inspector general's office is working with the FBI in the investigations as is customary in such cases. Gibson didn't identify any of the banks or individuals involved.

Last month, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz added his voice to those who argue that bankers who broke the law in the financial crisis must be jailed or the economy won't recover.

Stiglitz argued that if unscrupulous bankers aren't held to account, the public and investors will lose faith in the financial system and the economy will continue to struggle.