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A federal regulator alleged on Wednesday that Citibank illegally discriminated against Armenian Americans by singling them out on credit card applications based on their surnames.

Citi “targeted” retail services credit card applicants associated with Armenian national origin from 2015 through 2021, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

According to the CFPB, Citi treated Armenian Americans as criminals who would commit fraud.

According to the regulator, Citi applied stricter criteria to applications from suspected Armenian Americans, such as “denying them outright,” blocking their accounts, and requesting additional information.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Citi targeted applicants who had last names ending in “-ian” and “-yan” as well as applicants living around Glendale, California, which has a large Armenian American population.

According to regulators, Citi orchestrated an effort to conceal the alleged discrimination, including falsifying documents.

Citi is a major issuer of store credit cards, including those for Home Depot, Best Buy, and other retailers.

The CFPB ordered Citi to pay $25.9 million in fines and consumer redress for discrimination. A $24.5 million fine will be paid to the CFPB’s victims relief fund as part of those penalties.

A few employees took impermissible actions while trying to stop a well-documented Armenian fraud ring operating in some parts of California, Citi spokesperson Karen Kearns said. It is unacceptable to base credit decisions on national origin, even if we prioritize protecting our bank and our customers from fraud.”

Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said Citi stereotyped Armenians as criminals and fraudsters. As a cover-up for its discrimination, Citi illegally fabricated documents.

It is illegal to intentionally deny credit to groups of people due to their national origin under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.