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What is the real story behind Citigroup’s touting a $200 million contribution to financial education reported in “Financial Literacy-Checkmate for Bankers” which Credit Union Times ran on its Web site, May 27, 2004? What are they trying to hide? The real news behind this effort to manipulate public opinion is seemingly another ugly story of banking greed. So what if Citigroup made a $200 million commitment to financial education. What’s overlooked is that in 2002 Citigroup was ordered to pay a $215 million fine to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive and abusive lending practices. Further, the timing of the Citigroup philanthropy announcement is suspicious – possibly an attempt to cover-up that on the very same day, May 27th, Citigroup was compelled to pay another massive fine, this time $70 million to the Federal Reserve, for ongoing abuses in its consumer lending operations. Rather than give Citigroup credit, perhaps Capitol Hill should examine what punitive ramifications Citigroup should face for systematic abuse of consumer banking law, misuse of its government-granted charter, and charges they intentionally misled federal examiners. Despite paying the biggest fines in banking history, the Wall Street Journal reports that Citigroup claims the settlement will have “no material impact” on its second-quarter earnings. This begs the question about the for-profit banking side; does “Citigate” show that it sometimes pays to lie, cheat and steal? Anyone with a calculator can draw the conclusion that obviously, the fines were not big enough. Citigroup may have reached that nightmare-size where academics say government loses control; “too big to fail,” as well as “too big to politically discipline.” If so, Citigroup may have become a threat to the sovereign national financial system, hurtful for all other regulated financial institutions, and as a repeat offender deserving of ongoing mistrust by American consumers. Instead of celebrating Citi’s spending on financial education, perhaps it is time to ask the Justice Department to consider breaking up Citigroup. John Annaloro President/CEO Washington Credit Union League Federal Way, Wash.

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