Citibank affiliates to pay $4.5m to settle CFTC charges

Maria Nikolova

Citibank N.A., Citigroup Energy Inc., and Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. agree to pay the fine for failing to diligently supervise their audio preservation system.

The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announces it has issued an order filing and simultaneously settling charges against Citibank N.A. , Citigroup Energy Inc., and Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. for failing to diligently supervise their audio preservation system.

Citibank operated and maintained an audio preservation system on behalf of all three Citi entities. This system was the primary means of ensuring that audio recordings were maintained as required by CFTC regulations. As a result of a known design flaw, the system deleted millions of audio files, including recordings that were responsive to a CFTC subpoena and which Citibank had assured the Division of Enforcement were being preserved.

The order requires the Citi entities to pay a $4.5 million civil monetary penalty.

According to the order, in December 2017, Division of Enforcement staff sent a subpoena to Citibank in connection with an ongoing investigation for, among other things, audio recordings of certain Citibank traders on a particular day. On February 9, 2018, Citibank communicated to Division staff that a hold notice had been issued to Citibank staff and confirmed that responsive audio recordings would be preserved. Relying on this information, Division staff agreed to Citibank’s request that it be permitted to prioritize production of electronic communications and defer production of the requested audio recordings until a later date. On October 30, 2018, Division staff requested that Citibank produce the responsive audio recordings.

On December 3, 2018, Citibank notified Division staff that it had deleted the responsive recordings roughly three weeks earlier due to a design flaw in its audio preservation system. As a result, the system deleted more than 2.77 million audio files for 982 users, including recordings that were responsive to the December 2017 subpoena and which Citibank had assured Division staff were being preserved.

The audio preservation system had what one Citibank employee described in a 2014 memo to senior management as a “design flaw.” As the employee described it, if the system was not configured correctly, there was a “ticking time bomb effect” that could lead to the automatic deletion of audio recordings. Despite being on notice of the problem as of 2014, Citibank did not take timely and appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of the system’s design flaw. Citibank further did not maintain adequate internal controls with respect to its preservation of audio and thus failed to diligently supervise matters related to its business as a CFTC registrant.

According to the order, because all of the Citi entities relied on Citibank to operate and maintain the audio preservation system to record and preserve not only Citibank’s own audio, but also the audio of its affiliated North American swap dealers, all of the Citi entities violated CFTC Regulation 166.3 by failing to diligently supervise the operation of the audio preservation system.

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