Citibank ordered to pay nearly $26 million for discriminating against Armenian-American credit card applicants

Fines and redress of nearly $26 million was assessed Wednesday against one of the largest banks in U.S. for discrimination of Armenian Americans, the federal consumer financial protection agency said.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) the fines and redress totaling $25.9 million was assessed against Citibank, N.A. (Citi), of New York, N.Y. – the third largest bank in the nation with $1.7 trillion in assets– for violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and its implementing Regulation B by discriminating against certain credit card applicants based on their national origin.

In a release, the CFPB said the enforcement action was issued to the bank for intentionally and illegally discriminating against credit card applicants the bank identified as Armenian American.

“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,” the agency said. “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.”

The bank was ordered to pay $1.4 million to harmed consumers along with a $24.5 million penalty. Citi was also ordered to stop its illegal discrimination and take measures to ensure future compliance, including increasing oversight of communications and training materials concerning the manual underwriting of consumer credit card applications.

According to CFPB’s release, Citi treated Armenian Americans as criminals who were likely to commit fraud. From at least 2015 through 2021, CFPB said, the bank targeted retail services credit card applicants with surnames that Citi employees associated with Armenian national origin as well as applicants in or around Glendale, Calif.

CFPB alleged that the bank specifically targeted surnames ending in “-ian” and “-yan.” CFPB said that Glendale, nicknamed “Little Armenia,” is home to approximately 15% of the Armenian American population in the U.S., the bureau release stated.

CFPB Orders Citi to Pay $25.9 Million for Intentional, Illegal Discrimination Against Armenian Americans