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Citigroup to Pay $285 Million for CDO Fraud

Citigroup settled charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and has agreed to pay $285 million to do so. According to the SEC, Citigroup defrauded investors by betting a toxic housing-related debt would fail, but selling the CDO to investors anyway. According to an article by Reuters, “The SEC said the bank’s Citigroup Global Markets unit misled investors about a $1 billion collateralized debt obligation by failing to reveal it had a ‘significant influence’ over the selection of $500 million of underlying assets, and that it took a short position against those assets.”

Citigroup to Pay $285 Million for CDO Fraud

Citigroup is the third major bank to settle with the SEC for failing to disclose betting against a collateralized debt obligation, or CDO, and then marketing it to customers. JPMorgan settled for $153.6 million in June and Goldman Sachs settled for $550 million in July 2010.

In November 2007, the CDO defaulted and, while investors faced losses, Citigroup made $160 million. This contributed to the 2007-2009 financial crisis and is, therefore, a part of the mission to reduce broker fraud and hold Wall Street figures accountable for triggering the recession. According to the SEC, the Citigroup employee who was primarily responsible for structuring the transaction was Brian Stoker. In response to the files charged against him by the SEC, one of his lawyers said the allegations had “no basis.”

Credit Suisse Group AG, the collateral manager of the CDO, as well as Samir Bhatt, Credit Suisse’s portfolio manager who was primarily responsible, have settled separate charges with the SEC. Bhatt is suspended for associating with an investment advisor for six months and Suisse will pay $2.5 million. Citigroup represented Credit Sussie in marketing materials outlining the deal, according to the SEC.

Citigroup will forfeit $160 million in “alleged improper fees and profits,” $30 million in interest and will also pay a fine of $95 million. The settlement, according to Citigroup, “resolves all outstanding SEC inquiries into those activities.” Citigroup neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.

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