Citigroup Legal Costs Jump as Currency Probes Accelerate

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Michael Corbat
Michael Corbat, chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Citigroup Inc. revealed that it’s facing a U.S. criminal probe into the bank’s foreign-exchange business and took a $600 million legal charge that forced it to restate third-quarter results reported two weeks ago.

The lender is cooperating with criminal and antitrust investigations by the Justice Department as well as inquiries by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and regulators in the U.K. and Switzerland, New York-based Citigroup said today in a regulatory filing.

The increase in third-quarter legal costs, on top of the $951 million disclosed earlier this month, “resulted from rapidly evolving regulatory inquiries and investigations, including very recent communications with certain regulatory agencies related to previously disclosed matters,” the company said in a separate statement.

Citigroup, led by Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat, is among banks facing investigations by authorities on three continents over alleged rigging of currency markets, people with knowledge of the situation have said.

The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority is in settlement talks with Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, Barclays Plc, HSBC Holdings Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The FCA plans to reach some agreements next month, the people said.

Guilty Pleas

U.S. prosecutors are pressing to bring charges against a bank for currency-rate manipulation by the end of the year, and actions against individuals probably will follow in 2015, people familiar with the probe said earlier this month. The Justice Department may seek guilty pleas, including from at least one U.S. firm, one of the people said.

More than 25 traders, including Citigroup’s Rohan Ramchandani, have been fired, suspended or put on leave since allegations of currency-benchmark manipulation emerged last year.

Citigroup’s third-quarter net income was $2.84 billion for the three months ended Sept. 30, instead of the $3.44 billion that the third-biggest U.S. bank reported on Oct. 14, according to today’s statement.

Other banks have increased legal reserves amid the foreign-exchange investigations.

JPMorgan’s $1.01 billion third-quarter legal expense was tied “in large part” to the currency probes, Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake said on Oct. 14. UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, set aside 1.84 billion Swiss francs ($1.93 billion) for litigation provisions in the third quarter and said this week it’s in talks with the Justice Department’s antitrust and criminal divisions.

‘Global Settlement’

Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest lender, set aside 894 million euros ($1.13 billion) for litigation. Its CFO, Stefan Krause, said this week that the currency investigation isn’t as far along as other regulatory matters.

The probes into allegations that traders rigged foreign-exchange benchmarks could cost banks as much as $41 billion to settle, Citigroup analysts led by Kinner Lakhani said this month.

“Extrapolating European and, more importantly, U.S. penalties from a previous global settlement suggests to us a total potential global settlement on this key issue,” the analysts wrote.

Citigroup fell 2.2 percent to $52 at 6:57 p.m. in extended trading in New York. The shares rose 2 percent this year through the close of regular trading, trailing the 7.7 percent advance for the 85-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index.

Today marks the second time this year that Citigroup has restated financial results amid allegations of wrongdoing. In February, the bank lowered 2013 profit by $235 million after reporting a $400 million fraud at its Mexico unit involving loans to oil-services firm Oceanografia SA.

In March, Citigroup said it’s cooperating with U.S. authorities after Banamex USA, part of the Mexico unit, received subpoenas related to compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and federal anti-money-laundering rules.

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