It has been reported that New York based Citigroup has agreed to pay $730 million to settle claims that it misled investors with respect to nearly 50 bond and preferred stock offerings over a period of more than 24 months between 2006 and 2008. The investors’ claims were said to be based on misleading statements from the bank over Citigroup’s exposure to mortgage backed securities, its loss reserves, and the credit quality of some of its held assets.
Before the settlement can be finalized, it must be approved by the US District Court in Manhattan. If approved, it would be the second largest financial crisis related settlement to date – trailing only Bank of America’s $2.43 billion settlement related to its purchase of Merrill Lynch. According to the Wall Street Journal, Citigroup claimed to have done nothing wrong and stated that it settled to avoid the trouble and costs of extended litigation.
This is just one more of many such settlements that have resulted from the financial crisis, totaling billions of dollars that have been returned to investors. Just last year, it was reported that Citigroup paid $590 million to settle allegations by investors that it misled shareholders about other problems in 2007 and 2008. Wachovia and Bank of America, among others, have also been reported to have recently reached settlements in excess of $500 million with investors.
The events underlying cases such as this one, brought on behalf of classes of investors are large, striking examples of how banks mislead investors on the grandest scale. However, class actions are not the only avenue investors have to recover their losses.
Misled and defrauded investors have the option to opt out of large class actions and pursue their claims independently. While joining a class action may seem like the easy way for a victimized investor to recoup their losses, class actions have been criticized for returning less to individual victims than could have been obtained had each investor brought their own individual case.