Who Is the Unsung Hero of the $7 Billion Citigroup Settlement?
William K. Black, The Real News Network
This is the latest in the way of embarrassing settlements by the Department of Justice that they’re trying to bill as if they were holding Citicorp accountable. So it’s $7 billion. As you say, the $4 billion is a larger number than has previously gone to the United States, but it’s not the biggest settlement. The JPMorgan settlement is larger in overall terms. And it really doesn’t matter how much goes to the federal government versus state governments in these terms.
Let me give you two words that you’re not going to hear in the coverage of this, and those words are Richard Bowen. Richard Bowen was the whistleblower that made all of this possible, that gave this case on a platinum platter to the Department of Justice. And today the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, has given a press conference in which he has never mentioned Richard Bowen’s name and has never used it as an opportunity to praise him and to ask other people to come forward and blow the whistle so that we can prevent these kind of crimes.
In addition you’ll note that there are no criminal charges in this case against the individuals or against Citicorp. And as a result of all of this, all of the individuals who became wealthy through what the Department of Justice describes as an egregious fraud that was followed by a coverup–in other words, multiple felonies–have not been charged at this point, and, frankly, there’s no indication that they’re about to be charged as well. So the people that committed the frauds get to keep all of the bonuses that were created as a result of those frauds, and it’s another disgraceful moment in the chapter of the Department of Justice.
Citigroup Is Said to Be Close to Settling Inquiry Into Mortgage Securities
By MICHAEL CORKERY and BEN PROTESS, Yhe New York Yimes
July 8, 2014 9:07 pm
At one point in the talks, the government demanded that Citigroup pay $10 billion. While the settlement will fall short of that demand, the bank will still pay more than once expected.
The two sides are still working out some details. Citi is expected to pay roughly $4 billion in cash, according to a person briefed on the matter. The remainder of the $7 billion would include so-called soft dollar penalties, including mortgage modifications and other forms of relief to homeowners, and possibly payments to state attorneys general involved in the case.
The total amount will almost certainly exceed the $2 billion that some Wall Street analysts initially estimated that Citigroup would be liable to pay, though more recent estimates have put the number closer to $6 billion.
Citigroup was not nearly as big a player in this business as JPMorgan Chase, which agreed to a $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department last year.
Lawyers for the big banks say privately that federal prosecutors appear to have scrapped the model used in that case and are demanding penalties that are far more punitive than what JPMorgan paid.
The Citigroup deal raises the stakes for Bank of America, which is expected to be the next large bank to settle its mortgage case with the Justice Department. Talks between the bank and federal prosecutors have largely gone dormant in recent weeks as the Justice Department focused on resolving its case with Citigroup, people briefed on the matter said.
Citigroup Settles Mortgage Inquiry for $7 Billion
By MICHAEL CORKERY
July 14, 2014 8:29 p.m.
The unusual arrangement, which was outlined in the deal on Monday, underscores how difficult it remains for Citigroup to shed its rocky past and how federal prosecutors are getting creative in holding the nation’s big banks accountable for losses that crippled the global financial system in 2008.
Like other settlements the federal government has signed with Wall Street, Citigroup’s deal also requires the bank to modify mortgages of struggling homeowners. But Citigroup’s mortgage business has shrunk appreciably since the financial crisis, and the bank doesn’t service enough troubled mortgages to satisfy the monetary settlement terms for homeowner relief. So the bank agreed to finance affordable rental housing in unspecified “high cost of living areas.”
Wall Street watchdog groups and housing advocates said the terms of the $7 billion settlement highlight how the federal government has fallen short in its effort to hold banks accountable, noting that neither Citigroup nor any of its executives have been criminally charged for the bank’s mortgage problems.
In announcing the deal on Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the hard-fought settlement did not absolve the bank or its employees from facing criminal charges. “The bank’s misconduct was egregious,” he said. “As a result of their assurances that toxic financial products were sound, Citigroup was able to expand its market share and increase profits.”
The Justice Department said Citigroup routinely ignored warnings that a significant portion of the mortgages it was packaging and selling to investors in 2006 and 2007 had underwriting defects. In one internal email cited by prosecutors, a Citigroup trader wrote “went thru Diligence Reports and think that we should start praying … I would not be surprised if half of these loans went down.” But the bank securitized the loans anyway.
The Justice Department said it was this type of evidence that enabled prosecutors to extract a $4 billion cash penalty from Citigroup – the largest payment of its kind. That money will go into the United States Treasury’s general fund and is not earmarked for any particular use.
The deal also includes $2.5 billion in so-called soft dollars designated for the financing of rental housing, mortgage modifications, down payment assistance and donations to legal aid groups, among other measures intended to provide relief to consumers.
In a boon for Citigroup, the deal with the Justice Department forgoes any potential cases against the bank related to collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.s, which were often tied to mortgages. While Citi was a relatively small player in the mortgage securities market, it was a leader on Wall Street in C.D.O.s.
But for many borrowers who have already gone through foreclosures, the settlement comes too late, consumer advocates say.
“Seven billion sounds like a lot. But compared to the number of families that lost their homes, it is not very much at all,” said Isaac Simon Hodes, a community organizer with Lynn United for Change, a group that advocates on behalf of Boston-area residents facing foreclosure.
Citigroup Pays Just $7 Billion For Causing Financial Crisis
By: DSWright, Firedog Lake
Monday July 14, 2014 7:22 am
Attorney General Eric Holder, once a Wall Street lawyer who represented clients involved in mortgage fraud that led to the 2008 crisis, said “The bank’s misconduct was egregious,” while promoting the inconsequential settlement.
The Justice Department declined an earlier offer from Citigroup noting it had emails and other evidence that, according to AG Holder, showed “[W]idespread defects among the increasingly risky loans they were securitizing, the bank and its employees concealed these defects.” Kind of sounds like criminal fraud doesn’t it?
Citigroup itself was formed under dishonest circumstances through the merger of Citibank and Travelers Group when Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan approved the merger despite it being illegal at the time. Congress, who had taken millions of dollars from owners and investors in Citigroup, then approved the merger. One of those lobbying for the merger to be retroactively legalized was Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who would go on to serve as chairman of Citigroup and make over $100 million.
Citigroup has been bailed out at least four times by the federal government and continues to be implicated in illegality regarding money laundering for terrorists and drug cartels as well as other crimes in the foreign exchange market. The former CEO of Citigroup and architect of the merger in the 90s, Sandy Weill, has said the merger no longer makes sense and Citigroup should be broken up.