Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

“Westchester Patch: Citigroup Returns $22.5M to Overcharged Customers: NY AG”

January 12, 2017

As published by the Westchester Patch on January 12, 2017.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Thursday the resolution of a four-year investigation of a Citigroup subsidiary that had overcharged over 47,000 of its customers more than $22.5 million in fees.

After the Attorney General’s Office launched its investigation, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc revised its policies and procedures to address the fee overcharge issues uncovered in the investigation, and as a part of the agreement announced today, CGMI admits the findings of Schneiderman’s investigation, the AG said.

The investigation began in 2012 after a complaint from a Westchester resident led the Attorney General’s Office to investigate fee overcharge issues at CGMI. The company began reimbursing 31,000 customers in full with interest for the overcharged fees back in 2014, while uncovering still more who had been overcharged — another 16,000 customers.

Schneiderman said Thursday that CGMI must also report fee overcharge issues to the New York Attorney General’s office for the next three years and to pay a penalty of $1 million to the state.

“Our investigation put $22.5 million rightfully back in the hands of customers in New York and across the country,” he said. “We appreciate Citi’s cooperation with our investigation and its commitment to ensuring investors are paid back what they are owed – which sets an example for other financial institutions.”

The fee overcharges at issue in the investigation arose (1) when CGMI overcharged some of its customers more than the fees they had negotiated on their managed investment accounts, and (2) when CGMI overcharged customers by failing to rebate certain customers’ accounts after periods of inactivity when fees should not have been charged but were charged. CGMI identified these overcharges as part of an internal review conducted in cooperation with the Attorney General’s investigation.

As part of the agreement resolving the investigation, CGMI will provide the Investor Protection Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office, on a quarterly basis for the next three years, a detailed written report on overcharge errors that CGMI discovers in its United States-based advisory business.

According to the AG investigators, CGMI initially identified more than 31,000 customers who were charged higher advisory fees than they negotiated on so-called “TRAK” accounts. Customers with TRAK accounts typically pay a fee for advisory services ranging from 1 percent to 1.5 percent. However, the fees were negotiable, and many customers were able to obtain a lower fee than the standard rate. An inquiry into that process, though, determined that many customers were unaware that they were being charged higher-than-negotiated rates.

As a part of a 2014 interim agreement, CGMI also agreed to continue to cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation and to conduct a wider review of other types of CGMI investment accounts to ensure that other account holders who were overcharged fees would also be paid restitution.

As part of CGMI’s wider review, CGMI discovered it also overcharged another 948 non-TRAK accounts for similar issues and repaid affected customers more than $1 million in principal and interest.

Citi’s continued cooperation and its wider review of customer accounts also identified more than 15,000 additional Citi customer accounts that were overcharged fees during frozen periods—that is, when a CGMI customer’s account was frozen during a period of inactivity. CGMI’s review revealed that thousands of customers who were overcharged fees during frozen periods were not allocated rebates they should have received, either because they did not request a rebate or because CGMI did not have policies and procedures in place to determine when rebates were appropriate.

As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, CGMI will repay more than 15,000 customers for the frozen account fee overcharges a total of more than $4.6 million in principal and interest.

A copy of the agreement with CGMI can be found here.

The investigation into Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. was led by Katherine C. Milgram, Chief of the Attorney General’s Investor Protection Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Dhawal Sharma. Gary Brown, Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Westchester Regional Office, also contributed to the investigation.

The Investor Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Economic Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Manisha M. Sheth. The Westchester Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Affairs led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack.