In the United States, the federal regulator accused Citibank that this financial institution had been implementing an illegal corporate policy of discrimination against Americans of Armenian origin for several years, singling them out in applications for credit cards based on surnames.
Last Wednesday, November 8, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) stated that in the period from 2015 to 2021, the bank targeted credit card applicants of retail services whose employees were associated with Armenian origin. The mentioned regulator claims that Citi perceived Americans with these national roots as some kind of criminals who are most likely involved in the commission of fraud.
The CFPB stated that the financial institution applied stricter criteria to clients of Armenian origin who are US citizens. The regulator claims that the bank’s discriminatory policy included actions such as outright refusal to provide services and products, blocking accounts, and requiring additional information.
The CFPB reported that Citi targeted applicants with surnames ending in -ian and -yan. Excessive pickiness was also applied to applicants in and around Glendale, California, where many Americans of Armenian descent live.
The regulator claims that the financial institution tried to hide the facts of the implementation of discriminatory corporate policy. As part of the relevant efforts, according to the prosecution, the creditor falsified documents.
Citi is a major issuer of store credit cards, including retail cards for Home Depot, Best Buy, and other chains.
The CFPB, as part of the bank’s prosecution for discrimination based on nationality, ordered the financial institution to pay fines and damages to customers totaling $25.9 million.
The spokesperson of Citi, Karen Kearns, in a comment to the media, actually acknowledged the fact of the violations mentioned. Several employees of the financial institution, within the framework of actions aimed at countering the encroachments of a documented Armenian group of fraudsters, took unacceptable measures. This was stated by the mentioned representative of the bank, separately noting that the lender pays priority attention to protecting its security and protecting its customers from fraud, but it is unacceptable to make credit decisions based on national origin.
A Citi spokesperson also said that following an internal investigation, the financial institution took appropriate action against those involved in discriminatory practices and took steps to prevent the recurrence of such cases.
The CFPB insists that the bank’s management conspired to conceal the facts of illegal decisions of employees that violate the principle of equal rights of citizens of the United States, regardless of nationality. The regulator claims that an order was issued inside Citi prohibiting discussion of discriminatory practices in writing or the format of telephone conversations. This decision, according to the CFPB, applied to the bank’s employees. The regulator also stated that the financial institution tried to conceal the fact of discriminatory decisions by deceiving consumers, to whom representatives of the lender informed that the refusal of a loan was due to other reasons unrelated to their nationality.
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra says that Citi has succumbed to the stereotyped perception of Armenians as persons with a penchant for crimes in general and fraud in particular. The head of the bureau insists that the bank falsified documents to conceal the facts of discrimination.
Currently, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act is in force in the United States, according to which the deliberate refusal to provide relevant financial services due to the nationality of the consumer is a prohibited practice.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who often criticizes large banks, condemned Citi’s actions. She stated that deliberate discrimination against Americans of Armenian descent is illegal, outrageous, and simply wrong.
Dennis Kelleher, CEO of the financial reform advocacy group Better Markets, called the accusation against Citi staggering and doubted that in this case, the punishment corresponds to the crime. According to him, the amount of the fine is not a sensitive measure of impact for the bank, amounting to just over 0.1% of its revenue of $20 billion for the third quarter of this year. He said that individual bankers should be personally punished and incur significant monetary costs. Also, in his opinion, those involved in discrimination should be deprived of the right to work in the industry.
As we have reported earlier, Citi Rolls Out New Travel and Expense Management System.