Citigroup to Pay $1.5 M for Supervisory Violations Related to Broker’s Handling of Trust Funds

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Citigroup Global Markets Inc. has consented to pay $1.5 million in disgorgement and fines for failing to properly supervise broker Mark Singer and his handling of trust funds belonging to two cemeteries. By agreeing to settle, Citigroup is not denying or admitting to the charges. Also, the disgorgement amount of $750,000 will be given back to the cemetery trusts as partial restitution.

FINRA says that from September 2004 and October 2006, Singer and his clients Craig Bush and Clayton Smith were engaged in securities fraud. Their scheme involved misappropriating some $60 million from cemetery trust funds. Bush and Smart were the successive owners of the group of cemeteries in Michigan that the funds are believed to have been stolen from. Smart bought the cemeteries from Bush in August 2004 using trust funds that were improperly transferred from the cemeteries to a company that Smart owned.

When Singer went to work for Citigroup as a branch manager in September 2004, he brought Bush’s cemetery trust accounts with him. FINRA says that Singer then helped Smart and Bush open a number of Citigroup accounts in their names and in the names of corporate entities that the two men controlled or owned. The broker also helped them deposit cemetery trust funds into some of the accounts, as well as effect improper transfers to third parties. Some of the fund transfers were disguised as fictitious investments made for the cemeteries.

FINRA says that Citigroup failed to properly supervise Singer when it did not respond to “red flags” and that this lack of action allowed the investment scheme to continue until October 2006. As early as September 2004, Singer’s previous employer warned Citigroup of irregular fund movements involving the Michigan cemetery trusts. Within a few months, Citigroup management also noticed the unusual activity.

Citigroup failed to “conduct an adequate inquiry” even after finding out in February 2005 that Smart may have been making misrepresentations about his acquisition of hedge fund investments that belonged to the Michigan cemetery trusts and had used the hedge funds as collateral for a $24 million credit line. Although the investment bank had received a whistleblower letter in May 2006 accusing Singer of broker misconduct related to his handling of the cemetery trusts, it still failed to restrict Singer’s activities or more strictly supervise him.

Related Web Resources:
Citi Sanctioned $1.5M By Finra In Supervisory Lapse, The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2010
Stealing from the dead, CNN Money, August 13, 2007
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