Truth And Accountability League (TAAL) Statement Regarding Citigroup’s Targeting, Racial Profiling, and Discriminating Against Armenians
Truth And Accountability League (TAAL) condemns in the strongest possible terms Citigroup for years of illegally discriminating against credit-card applicants whom the bank identified as Armenian-American, according to U.S. financial regulators.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that from at least 2015 through 2021, Citi ‘targeted’ retail services credit card applicants with employees associated with Armenian national origin. The CFPB’s finding that Citi employees were trained to avoid approving applications with last names ending in ‘yan’ or ‘ian’ — the most common suffix to Armenian last names — as well as applications that originated in Glendale, California, where a significant portion of the country’s Armenian-American population lives.
‘Citi treated Armenian Americans as criminals who were likely to commit fraud,’ the CFPB stated.
The CFPB ordered the bank to pay $25.9 million in fines and consumer redress to punish Citi for discrimination. Those penalties include a $24.5 million fine to the CFPB’s victims relief fund.
According to the CFPB, Citi supervisors ‘conspired to hide the discrimination’ by telling employees not to discuss these practices in writing or on recorded phone lines.
The bank then ‘hid’ the discrimination by lying to consumers, giving them ‘false reasons’ for credit denials, the CFPB said.
‘Citi stereotyped Armenians as prone to crime and fraud,’ CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a statement. ‘Citi illegally fabricated documents to cover up its discrimination.’
Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, it is illegal to intentionally deny credit to groups of people based on national origin.
The CFPB noted that Citi has a history of recently violating consumer financial protection laws. It paid $335 million in 2018 to 1.75 million consumer credit card holders for allegedly violating the Truth in Lending Act. In 2015, Citi paid almost $750 million for ‘deceptive and unfair practices’ linked to overcharging credit card customers.
Citibank’s intentional ethnic discrimination against Armenian Americans is illegal, outrageous, and a blatant insult to our country’s Equal Rights Act. The CFPB is right to hold the bank accountable, but the imposed fines need to match the level of impunity and disregard for human rights and dignity displayed by Citi. That fine amount is meaningless to Citi as it represents slightly more than 0.1% of the bank’s $20 billion in third-quarter revenue. The most critical aspect of holding corporations responsible for racist, discriminatory, and maliciously deceitful practices towards potential clients is the absolute necessity to bring individual bankers, including executives and supervisors, to justice by eliminating them from any position of power, present and future, in all American corporations or institutions where they may have any leverage in making financial or other types of decisions for clients of diverse American communities. There needs to be a multi-tiered approach to the implementation of corrective actions to not only punish the malignancy of ‘hate crime,’ which Citi’s actions qualify for as their treatment of the targeted ethnic population of Armenians caused harm, financial loss, and dignity, and other trickle-down painful consequences to the community but also to diligently rectify future financial practices and vigilantly enforce the implementation of all procedural safeguards so as not to subject any other individuals/groups to such humiliating harm.
Racism, discrimination, and injustice are wrong, counterproductive, and combined to deny the inherent dignity of all members of our community, including those who are not members of historically marginalized groups. We must actively replace these insults to humanity with kindness, habits of inclusiveness, and society. We are obligated to model what we believe and teach. When we recognize or hear about racism, discrimination, or injustice committed by ourselves or others, we need to name it, call attention to it, and engage it. It is the right and intelligent thing to do. To fail to do so signals our indifference toward illogic, inefficiency, and inhumanity. Citigroup must apologize to the Armenian community and make meaningful amends.
Racial profiling and discrimination falsely stigmatize people who aren’t even suspected of actual wrongdoing, as well as entire communities. Using the color of someone’s skin, ethnicity, the religion they practice, or where they were born as a basis for suspicion should be left in the history books where it belongs.
‘While Armenians went through a second Armenian Genocide, the Artsakh Genocide from 2020-2023, the rise in anti-Armenian hate crimes in California, including the anti-Armenian flyers posted in Glendale in March and similar ones in Beverly Hills a month earlier, calling for the massacre of Armenians, Citigroup was victimizing us differently,’ said Vic Gerami, TAAL Founder and Chair.
TAAL will keep fighting for systematic change and legislation that prohibits biased profiling to protect communities that have for so long been wrongly targeted and harmed. Without Truth and Accountability and the consistent vigilance and advocacy of organizations like TAAL, the pitfalls for similar inhumane, irresponsible, humiliating, and damaging practices will continue to cause irreparable harm to hard-working Americans who are the backbone of our great Nation.
TAAL is a 501©3 non-profit advocacy organization founded in 2020 due to a significant increase in anti-Armenian racism, defamation, hate crimes, and Armenophobia. We monitor and confront bias, disinformation, propaganda, and slander of the Armenian people and culture at the media level, including social media, academics, intelligentsia, and public policy.