Citigroup to pay US$7 bil. in subprime mortgages probe
AP and AFP Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- Citigroup will pay US$7 billion to settle an investigation into risky subprime mortgages, the type that helped fuel the financial crisis.
The agreement announced Monday comes weeks after talks between the sides broke down, prompting the government to warn that it would sue the New York investment bank. The bank had offered to pay less than US$4 billion, a sum substantially less than what the Justice Department was asking for.
The settlement stems from the sale of securities made up of subprime mortgages, which fueled both the housing boom and bust that triggered the Great Recession at the end of 2007.
Citigroup and other banks downplayed the risks of subprime mortgages when packaging and selling them to mutual funds, investment trusts, pensions, as well as other banks and investors. The securities, which contained so-called residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, plunged in value when the housing market collapsed in 2006 and 2007. Those losses triggered a financial crisis that pushed the economy into the worst recession since the 1930s.
The bank separately agreed in April to pay US$1.13 billion to settle claims by investors seeking that the lender buy back billions of dollars in residential mortgage-backed securities.
In the deal announced Monday, Citigroup will make a US$4 billion civil monetary payment to the Justice Department, and another US$500 million in compensatory payments to state attorney's general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The bank will provide US$2.5 billion in consumer relief, which will include financing for construction and preservation of affordable housing, as well as principal reduction and forbearance for residential loans.
"The comprehensive settlement announced today with the U.S. Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and the FDIC resolves all pending civil investigations related to our legacy RMBS and CDO underwriting, structuring and issuance activities, said CEO Michael Corbat. "We also have now resolved substantially all of our legacy RMBS and CDO litigation."
The bank will take a pre-tax charge of about US$3.8 billion because of the settlement during its second quarter.
Shares of Citigroup Inc. rose nearly 4 percent to US$48.82 an hour before the U.S. stock market opened Monday.
The Citigroup settlement comes months after a similar — but much larger — deal between the Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation's biggest bank. After months of negotiations, the bank last year agreed to pay US$13 billion after an investigation into toxic mortgage-backed securities.
As part of the deal, which included settlements with New York, California and other states, JPMorgan agreed to provide US$4 billion in relief to homeowners affected by the bad loans. The bank also acknowledged that it misrepresented the quality of its securities to investors.
That deal was seen as a possible template for settlement with Citigroup and Bank of America Corp., which was accused in a government lawsuit last summer of failing to disclose risks and misleading investors in its sale of US$850 million of mortgage-linked securities. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a related lawsuit against Bank of America.
Citigroup reported Monday a 96-percent drop in second-quarter earnings due to a US$3.8 billion charge for a much-anticipated settlement of U.S. litigation on mortgage-backed securities sold ahead of the financial crisis.
Net income at the giant U.S. bank sank from US$4.2 billion a year ago to US$181 million. Earlier Monday, Citigroup said it would pay US$7 billion to settle charges by the U.S. Justice Department and other agencies that it misled investors in the sale of mortgage securities from 2003 through 2008.
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