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Citibank Battles With NY Judge to Avoid Accepting Fault

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Citibank Battles With NY Judge to Avoid Accepting Fault

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission arrived at a settlement surrounding the SEC’s claim that Citibank had misled investors involving $1 billion of subprime mortgage securities.

The SEC claimed that Citibank had led investors to believe that the mortgage investments were safer than they actually were, leading to a financial loss of around $700 million.

As is usually the case with Citibank and other large financial institutions, a settlement is reached at some point so that the bank can avoid having to admit that it was guilty of the charges.

In this case – #11-cv-7387, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Citigroup Global Markets Inc. in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan) – the SEC had agreed to accept a payment of $285 million from Citibank, and in exchange the bank could avoid having to admit that it was guilty of the SEC’s charges.

However, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff disagreed with the SEC, and refused to approve the settlement.




Judge Accuses SEC of Being Too Lenient

In fact, the judge went one step further and accused the SEC of letting corporations, like the massive banks, off the hook through such payouts without having to admit fault for the crimes they committed.

Rakoff has a reputation for holding such massive companies accountable for their actions. In 2009 he rejected another deal between the SEC and Bank of America.

He told reporters that the reason for not approving these settlements is because they are not “fair, adequate and reasonable.” He told reporters that the settlement between the SEC and Citibank is not in the best interests of the public.

This calls into question whether or not the SEC is truely prosecuting corporate offenders to the extent that they need to be dealt with, in terms of properly enforcing investment laws.

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Does Rakoff Have the Right?

According to Reuters legal analyst Alison Frakel, the SEC argues that Rakoff can not consider the public interest when approving or not approving the deal.

In response, Rakoff told SEC attorney Matthew Martens in the courtroom that the SEC’s viewpoint was, “An interesting position. I’m supposed to exercise my power but not my judgment.”

The question comes down to whether deciding if a settlement is “reasonable” involves taking the public interest into account. Steven Korotash, a former director of SEC enforcement, told Reuters that while the court is not supposed to play the role of the executive branch, the idea of deciding whether a settlement is reasonable does in fact include taking the public interest into consideration.

He stated that the idea of taking the public interest into account is:

“…subsumed in the analysis of reasonableness where you have public agencies involved in the dispute. It might not be spoken, but in reality there’s no reason to enter judgment if it’s not in public interest.”

And that is ultimately what may have many people up in arms about the case. Does the SEC itself have the public interest in mind when it is negotiating these settlements with large institutions like Citibank or Bank of America?

The fact that the SEC is a government entity that is in place to enforce financial laws that large companies consistently break leads one to ask how could the SEC even dare to suggest that the public interest should not be a part of the settlement approval?

If the public interest is not relevent to the SEC in determining the reasonableness of the settlement, then what exactly is relevent?


–> Reuters
–> BusinessWeek

Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com

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