What is the penalty for bankers who tell $40 billion lies? Somewhere between nothing and a rounding-error on your bonus.
The SEC just hit two Citigroup executives with fines for concealing $40 billion in subprime mortgage debt from investors back in 2007. The biggest fine is going to Citi CFO Gary Crittenden, who will pay $100,000 to settle allegations that he screwed over his own investors. The year of the alleged wrongdoing, Crittenden took home $19.4 million. That’s right. Crittenden will lose one-half of one percent of his income from the year he hid a quagmire of bailout-inducing insanity from his own investors. That’s it. No indictment. No prison time. Crittenden doesn’t even have to formally acknowledge any wrongdoing.
In 2007, as financial markets were freaking out about the subprime situation, Citi repeatedly told its investors that it owned just $13 billion in subprime mortgage debt. It was true—if you didn’t count an additional $40 billion in subprime debt that the company was also holding onto.
Citi’s CEO at the time, Chuck Prince, has not been charged with anything. As Yves Smith emphasizes, all of the top financial officers of every major corporation are responsible for the accuracy of their quarterly financial statements. Lying on those statements is a federal crime. This is the sort of thing that securities fraud cases are built around.