Citigroup pays $285 million to settle SEC charges over CDO tied to housing market

According to the SEC’s complaints, the Class V III transaction closed on Feb. 28, 2007. One experienced CDO trader characterized the Class V III portfolio in an e-mail as “dogsh!t” and “possibly the best short EVER!” An experienced collateral manager commented that “the portfolio is horrible.” On Nov. 7, 2007, a credit rating agency downgraded every tranche of Class V III, and on Nov. 19, 2007, Class V III was declared to be in an Event of Default. The approximately 15 investors in the Class V III transaction lost virtually their entire investments while Citigroup received fees of approximately $34 million for structuring and marketing the transaction and additionally realized net profits of at least $126 million from its short position.

The SEC alleges that Citigroup and Stoker each violated Sections 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933. While the SEC’s litigation continues against Stoker, Citigroup has consented to settle the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations. The settlement is subject to court approval. Citigroup consented to the entry of a final judgment that enjoins it from violating these provisions. The settlement requires Citigroup to pay $160 million in disgorgement plus $30 million in prejudgment interest and a $95 million penalty for a total of $285 million that will be returned to investors through a Fair Fund distribution. The settlement also requires remedial action by Citigroup in its review and approval of offerings of certain mortgage-related securities.

The SEC instituted related administrative proceedings against CSAC, its successor in interest Credit Suisse Asset Management (CSAM), and Bhatt. The SEC found that as a result of the roles that they played in the asset selection process and the preparation of the pitch book and the offering circular for the Class V III transaction, CSAM and CSAC violated Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act) and Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act and that Bhatt violated Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act and caused the violations of Section 206(2) of the Advisers Act by CSAC.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, CSAM and CSAC consented to the issuance of an order directing each of them to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations, or future violations, of Section 206(2) of the Advisers Act and Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act and requiring them to pay disgorgement of $1 million in fees that it received from the Class V III transaction plus $250,000 in prejudgment interest, and requiring them to pay a penalty of $1.25 million. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Bhatt consented to the issuance of an order directing him to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations or future violations of Section 206(2) of the Advisers Act and Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act and suspending him from association with any investment adviser for a period of six months.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Andrew H. Feller and Thomas D. Silverstein of the Enforcement Division’s Structured and New Products Unit with assistance from Steven Rawlings, Brenda Chang and Elisabeth Goot of the New York Regional Office. The SEC trial attorney who will lead the litigation against Stoker is Jeffrey Infelise.

For more information about dozens of other SEC enforcement actions related to the financial crisis, visit the SEC website at: http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/enf-actions-fc.shtml.

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