Citigroup burned by Mexico fraud

The company announces an earnings restatement tied to accounting fraud by a Mexican oil services company.

By Staff Feb 28, 2014 3:29PM

Paseo de la Reforma, Banamex, Mexico City,
© Travel Pictures / AlamyBy Philip van DoornTheStreet

Citigroup (C) said Friday it was restating its 2013 earnings after its Mexican banking subsidiary discovered fraud committed by a commercial logo

Citigroup's Mexican subsidiary, Banco Nacional de Mexico, commonly called Banamex, lent $585 million to Oceanografia S.A. de C.V. ("OSA"), a Mexican oil services company, with the loans secured by accounts receivable, as is typical for many commercial and industrial loans. Banamex also had $33 million in loans made directly to OSA or letters of credit  issued on behalf of OSA.

OSA had been a "key supplier" to Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, Mexico's state-owned oil company. But in February, OSA was suspended from new Pemex contracts.

After Citigroup and Pemex reviewed OSA's accounts receivable securing the loans, "Pemex asserted that a significant portion of the accounts receivables recorded by Banamex in connection with the Pemex accounts receivable financing program were fraudulent and that the valid receivables were substantially less than the $585 million referenced above."

Citigroup estimates that only $185 million of the accounts receivable pledged by OSA are legitimate. The $400 million shortfall has been charged to operating expenses within the company's Transaction Services unit for the fourth quarter, "with an offset to compensation expense of approximately $40 million associated with the Banamex variable compensation plan."

In an internal company memo, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat gave more details about the fraud: "It appears that invoices from OSA were falsified to represent that Pemex had approved them. A Banamex employee processed them, and as much as $400 million was misappropriated throughout the course of the fraud. At this point, it is not clear how many people were involved in the fraud."

Citi restated its 2013 earnings, lowering after-tax net income by $235 million to $13.673 billion, and lowering earnings per share by 7 cents to $4.35. The bank said it believed the fraud was "isolated," and that it was continuing a review to determine whether the remaining $33 million credit or $185 million in account receivables collateral due from Pemex was impaired.

Commenting in a press release, Corbat said the company was "responding forcefully over the past week by assessing the overall exposure to Citi, coordinating with law enforcement, pursuing recovery of the misappropriated funds, and seeking accountability for anyone involved." The company is going through a "rapid review" of similar accounts-receivable collateral arrangements.

Corbat went on to say that Banamex was working with Pemex and Mexico's attorney general, "to initiate criminal actions in connection with this matter that, in addition to imposing just penalties on the responsible parties, may allow us to recover damages."

The CEO struck a bitter tone: "I can assure you there will be accountability for those who perpetrated this despicable crime and any employee who enabled it, either through lax supervision, circumvention of our controls, or violating our Code of Conduct. All will be held equally responsible and we will make sure that the punishment sends a crystal clear message about the consequences of such actions." 

In the internal memo, Corbat reminded the bank's employees of what bank employees everywhere should already be aware -- you need to be a straight shooter.

"Only two weeks ago I wrote to you about the absolute need for everyone at this firm to act in accordance with the highest ethical standards and explained how failing to do so jeopardizes everything we work for. We now have a galling example of what happens when people fail this basic requirement," the CEO said.

Citi's shares recovered most of their losses from the beginning of Friday's trading session, and were down 0.3 percent to $48.57 in morning trading.

This chart shows the stock's performance against the KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) and the S&P 500 since the end of 2011:

Citigroup chart

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Tags: BanksC
Feb 28, 2014 5:07PM
If Citigroup and the other big banks want to find fraud, they should invest in a mirror. Not one banker was prosecuted for their fraudulent activities that continue to this day. The owners of our country, The Federal Reserve, will just continue to paper over everything and create bubbles. That's all they do in our Fiat currency economy. This story is just a diversion from the real problems that haven't been addressed here in the good old USA.
Feb 28, 2014 5:21PM
Not to worry Citibank just cut your deal with our idiot att'y gen Holder, the same deal that JP Morgan just got for $43 billion fraud. Pay a fine and Holder does not press criminal charges. Holder has not prosecuted anyone criminally in the big financial collapse of 2008 for fraud. Holder's credibility as attorney general is -100. He is one of the worst we have had in our history.
Xerox had this same problem bout ten years ago...

Always check up on Mexican Accountants.....

Feb 28, 2014 5:41PM
Not to worry... Tea PArty will bend over to bail them out... Corporate welfare isn't like public welfare.. you need to be poor to get public welfare....
Feb 28, 2014 6:16PM
Sometimes the system of kickbacks, commissions, exchanging of favors, bitch-running, and good-old-boy-compadres falls way short. The loses will be reported as such, but at the same time all will be rewarded.
Feb 28, 2014 6:47PM
Just goes to show that there's no honor among thieves.
Feb 28, 2014 4:26PM
230 million sure does shred C earnings, what a clown you are. Must be slow day for you as this has been beat to death already.
You are dealing with Mexicans, hello! All the fraud committed here in the states by these vermin should give somebody a clue
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