Citibank Fined $25 Million for Discriminating Against Men in Gold Chains
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Earlier (2009) Unemployed Armenians In Glendale

From the New York Times news section:

Citigroup Discriminated Against Armenian Americans, Regulator Says

The bank agreed to pay nearly $26 million to settle claims that its employees denied an immigrant community in Southern California fair access to its credit cards.

By Emily Flitter
Nov. 8, 2023

Citigroup employees labeled a group of roughly 80,000 Armenian Americans living near Los Angeles— he largest Armenian community outside Yerevan, the Armenian capital—as “bad guys” and secretly denied them fair access to the bank’s credit card products, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a statement on Wednesday.

The bank has agreed to pay $25.9 million to settle a case brought by the consumer bureau under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the federal law that prohibits banks from discriminating against people based on a host of qualities, including race, national origin and religion. Of the total, $1.4 million will go to the victims of Citigroup’s discriminatory practices, the regulator said. The other $24.5 million is a penalty for the bank’s misconduct.

“Citi stereotyped Armenians as prone to crime and fraud,” Rohit Chopra, the director of the consumer bureau, said in a news conference on Wednesday. “In reality, Citi illegally fabricated documents to cover up its discrimination.”

According to the regulator, Citi employees pegged the community, in Glendale, Calif., as a group whose members were likely to rack up huge debts and then flee the country. They warned new hires not to give credit card applicants with Armenian-sounding last names that ended in “ian” or “yan” the same rates that other customers received, and in some cases urged them to reject these applicants altogether.

I’d be interested in knowing what the fraud and flee-abroad rates are for people with names ending in “ian” and “yan,” but of course an NYT reporter doesn’t want to know. Mark Krikorian says old-time Armenian-Americans like himself with names ending in “ian” are highly respectable, while recent ex-Soviet Armenians with names ending in “yan” are trouble.

But that’s a stereotype, and stereotypes can’t tend to be true. They just can’t. What are people going to tell you next: that the stereotype that a fanatical Wikipedia administrator who writes countless articles about cricket players probably isn’t also a Spanish manic pixie dream girl indie rock star is true? That’s just crazy talk.

… Karen Kearns, a spokeswoman for Citigroup, said in a statement that the bank had been “trying to thwart a well-documented Armenian fraud ring operating in certain parts of California,” and that “a few employees took impermissible actions.”

According to regulators, Citi managers knew excluding Armenians was illegal and warned employees “not to discuss it in writing or on recorded phone lines.” Even so, regulators found evidence of Citi employees discussing over email how to cover up their denial of applicants from Glendale.

“It’s been a while since I declined for possible credit abuse/YAN — gimme some reasons I can use,” one employee wrote to another in 2016, seeking advice on how to tell a potential customer that a credit card application had been denied without revealing the real reason, according to the consumer bureau.

Emily Flitter covers finance. She is the author of “The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America.”

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