CitiGroup Whistleblower: 'Brute Force' Used To Hide Bad Loans


I find it hard to believe that after the serious consequences that CitiBank suffered (oh wait, they didn't, did they?) and all the regulations that were tightened up and carefully enforced (oh wait, they weren't, were they?), that this bank would dare to do such things. Boy, you just know something really, really bad will happen to them now. Right?

Four years after rotten mortgages helped trigger a global financial crisis, Sherry Hunt said her Citigroup Inc. quality-control team was still finding flaws in new loans that included altered tax forms, straw buyers and borrowers who listed fictitious employers.

Instead of reporting the defects to the Federal Housing Administration, the bank saddled the agency with losses by falsely declaring the loans fit for its federal insurance program, according to a complaint filed yesterday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Citigroup agreed to pay $158.3 million to settle the claims, and admitted that it certified loans for FHA backing that didn’t qualify.

A whole $158.3 million? There goes the annual hookers-and-blow budget!

Hunt, who filed a sealed lawsuit against New York-based Citigroup in August that the government joined, will collect $31 million of that sum -- before taxes and attorney’s fees -- as a whistle-blower, she said in an interview yesterday. The settlement, which encompassed misconduct spanning 2004 to the present, indicates Citigroup has lingering problems in its O’Fallon, Missouri-based CitiMortgage unit.

“Citigroup in particular received government funding, taxpayer dollars, because of its risky operations,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “It shows that they hadn’t really learned much of a lesson from the financial crisis.”

Well, sure they did! They learned that the people who are allegedly looking out for the public interest will accept just about any cover story for their bad behavior, however ludicrous it is.

The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development faulted Citigroup’s quality-control program during a 2008 audit, according to the complaint. Taxpayers rescued the bank with a $45 billion bailout that same year and guaranteed more than $300 billion of its risky assets after the lender’s stability was threatened by mounting costs on soured loans. The bank lost a total of $29.3 billion in 2008 and 2009.

Hunt’s co-workers, instead of checking for fraud or making reports about underwriting defects to the FHA as required, argued with her over the soundness of the loans, she said. Employees who acted as “gatekeepers” applied “what they describe as ‘brute force’ to pressure Citi’s quality control managers” into downplaying defects, according to the government’s complaint.

Some colleagues had pay incentives tied to reducing the number of reported problems, and they spent hours trying to get her to relax her warnings, including those about the most basic deficiencies, Hunt said.

I can't remember how long ago this happened, but they used to have these things call "jail sentences" that reduced such shenanigans. But hey, bygones!


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