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Citigroup Fined Millions for Discriminating Against Armenian-Americans, Sparks Outrage in Diaspora

Citigroup Fined MillionS for Discriminating Against Armenian-Americans, Sparks Outrage in Diaspora

BREAKING: Citibank faces accusations of illegal discrimination against Armenian Americans, igniting outrage and condemnation within the Armenian diaspora. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealed that Citibank had allegedly targeted retail services credit card applicants associated with Armenian national origin based on their surnames. The CFPB's findings span from 2015 to 2021, indicating a significant period during which Citibank employees purportedly treated Armenian Americans as potential criminals prone to fraud.

Citibank reportedly imposed stricter criteria on applications from suspected Armenian Americans, leading to denials, account blocks, and demands for additional information. The bank allegedly targeted applicants with last names ending in “-ian” and “-yan,” as well as those residing in and around Glendale, California, home to a sizable Armenian American population. Regulators unveiled a pattern of alleged discrimination, suggesting a systematic effort by Citibank to conceal these discriminatory practices, including falsifying documents.

In response to the allegations, Citibank has been ordered by the CFPB to pay $25.9 million in fines and consumer redress. This penalty includes a $24.5 million fine to the CFPB's victims relief fund. Citibank spokesperson Karen Kearns expressed regret over the actions of a few employees, emphasizing that credit decisions based on national origin are unacceptable. The bank has taken internal measures to address the issue and prevent similar incidents in the future, Kearns added.

Citibank supervisors allegedly conspired to conceal the discrimination, instructing employees not to discuss these practices in writing or on recorded phone lines. The bank purportedly provided false reasons for credit denials, misleading consumers about the actual grounds for their applications being rejected. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, intentionally denying credit based on national origin is illegal.

Critics, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and financial reform advocacy group Better Markets CEO Dennis Kelleher, condemned Citibank for its actions. Warren called the discrimination "illegal, outrageous, and just plain wrong," highlighting the importance of holding the bank accountable. Kelleher questioned the adequacy of the imposed fine, urging personal fines and industry bans for individual bankers, including executives and supervisors, involved in the discriminatory practices.

During a media briefing, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra emphasized the importance of fair treatment for immigrants who sought refuge in the United States, expressing concern about Citibank's recurrent violations of consumer financial protection laws. Citibank CEO Jane Fraser is set to testify before Congress on December 6 as part of the Senate Banking Committee's big bank oversight hearing, raising additional scrutiny on the bank's practices."


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