Citigroup Global Markets Inc. Sues Two Saudi Investors in an Attempt to Block Their FINRA Arbitration Claim Over $383M in Losses

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (C) is suing Abdullah and Ghazi Abbar. The Saudi investors have filed a FINRA arbitration claim against the Citigroup unit seeking to recover the $383 million that they say the bank lost their family’s money. The Abbars, who are father and son, are accusing Citigroup Global Markets of mismanaging their family’s savings.

Citigroup, which wants injunctive relief, says that the entities that took care of the the Abbars’ private-equity loan and leveraged option transactions are located abroad and therefore not under FINRA’s jurisdiction for arbitration. The financial firm also says that father, son, and their investment entities are not CGMI clients and their claims are not activities related it. The investment bank has noted that the Abbars chose to pursue it rather than the non-U.S. parties that they actually had agreements with that completed the transactions. The Abbars, however, say that those overseeing the Citigroup entities that took party in the daily management of their credit deal are personnel that are registered with FINRA.

Says Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas Founder and Stockbroker Fraud Lawyer William Shepherd, “The financial industry has created its own securities arbitration forum to resolve disputes and claims between and against its members. It is ironic when claims are filed that they often go to court to beg to get out of arbitration, their self-imposed fate. While courts in New York seem to operate to accommodate Wall Street’s wishes, the law for decades has held that decisions regarding the liability of securities firms are for the arbitrators, not the courts. If these investors have properly alleged any wrongdoing by the U.S. securities firm, the court has no business intervening. Such wrongdoing can be simply ‘control person liability,’ which is the failure to control or properly supervise the behavior or operations of a subordinate or subsidiary.”

CGMI placed $343 million of the Abbars money in hedge funds that were included in a leveraged option swap transaction. In their FINRA arbitration claim, the Abbars argue that leading CGMI officers, including ex- global wealth management chief Sallie Krawcheck and Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, pursued them.

Father and son contend that because of alleged “gross misconduct” by CGMI, their wealth was lost. They say that the bank’s failure to monitor the investments properly led to their total collapse during the height of the economic collapse in 2008. The Abbars also believe that lendings related to the Citigroup investments played a role in the losses. The Abbars says that Citigroup, which then started managing the positions that remained in the portfolio while implementing a program to redeem it, will “unjustly benefit” by about $70 million from the redemption of these investments.

Citigroup Sues to Block Arbitration of Saudi Investors’ Claim, Bloomberg/Businessweek, October 6, 2011
Citigroup Aims to Stop Arbitration From Proceeding, OnWallStreet, October 7, 2011

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