Citigroup has been fined more than $25 million for discriminating against Armenian Americans and blocking them from getting credit cards, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday.
From 2015 through 2021, Citi singled out for discrimination applicants for certain credit card products, based on their surnames, whom it suspected of being of Armenian descent. Citi supervisors conspired to hide the discrimination by instructing employees not to discuss the discriminatory practices in writing or on recorded phone lines. Citi employees also lied about the basis of denial, providing false reasons to denied applicants. Under today’s order, Citi will pay $1.4 million to harmed consumers along with a $24.5 million penalty.
“The CFPB found that Citi purposefully discriminated against applicants of Armenian descent, primarily based on the spelling of their last name,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Citi stereotyped Armenians as prone to crime and fraud. In reality, Citi illegally fabricated documents to cover up its discrimination.”
Citibank, N.A. is a national bank with headquarters in New York City that issues consumer credit cards, including retail services credit cards for companies like Home Depot and Best Buy. Citi’s parent company is Citigroup (NYSE: C), a global financial services holding company. As of June 30, 2023, Citi had $1.7 trillion in total assets – making it the third-largest bank by asset size in the United States.
Citi treated Armenian Americans as criminals who were likely to commit fraud. From at least 2015 through 2021, Citi targeted retail services credit card applicants with surnames that Citi employees associated with Armenian national origin as well as applicants in or around Glendale, California. The bank specifically targeted surnames ending in “-ian” and “-yan.” Nicknamed “Little Armenia,” Glendale is home to approximately 15% of the Armenian American population in the U.S.