The latest algo-arbing gimmick: report estimate bearing results to get the momentum-ignition algos sending your stock higher… then a month later announce you “discovered” fraud in a subsidiary, which magically cut earnings by $235 million, hoping nobody will notice. This is precisely what Citigroup just did.
From the just released 8-K:
Citi announced today that it is adjusting downward its fourth quarter and full year 2013 financial results, from those reported on January 16, 2014, by an estimated $235 million after-tax ($360 million pre-tax) as a result of a fraud recently discovered in its subsidiary in Mexico. The financial impact will lower Citi’s 2013 net income from $13.9 billion to $13.7 billion. Citi’s 2013 Annual Report on Form 10-K, to be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on March 3, 2014, will reflect these adjustments. Citi also intends to release a revised Fourth Quarter of 2013 Quarterly Financial Data Supplement reflecting these adjustments.
As of December 31, 2013, Citi, through Banco Nacional de Mexico (“Banamex”), had extended approximately $585 million of short-term credit to Oceanografia S.A. de C.V. (“OSA”), a Mexican oil services company, through an accounts receivable financing program. OSA has been a key supplier to Petróleos Mexicanos (“Pemex”), the Mexican state-owned oil company. Pursuant to the program, Banamex extended credit to OSA to finance accounts receivables due from Pemex. As of December 31, 2013, Banamex also had approximately $33 million in either outstanding loans made directly to OSA or standby letters of credit issued on OSA’s behalf.
On February 11, 2014, Citi learned that OSA had been suspended from being awarded new Mexican government contracts. Upon learning of this suspension, Citi, together with Pemex, commenced detailed reviews of their credit exposure to OSA and of the accounts receivable financing program over the past several years. As a consequence of these reviews, on February 20, 2014, Pemex asserted that a significant portion of the accounts receivables recorded by Banamex in connection with the Pemex accounts receivable financing program were fraudulent and that the valid receivables were substantially less than the $585 million referenced above.
Based on Citi’s review, which included documentation provided by Pemex, Citi estimates that it is able to support the validity of approximately $185 million of the $585 million of accounts receivables owed to Banamex by Pemex as of December 31, 2013. This $185 million consists of approximately $75 million supported by documentation in Pemex records and approximately $110 million of documented work performed that was still going through the Pemex approval process. The difference of an estimated $400 million has been charged to operating expense in Transaction Services in the fourth quarter of 2013, with an offset to compensation expense of approximately $40 million associated with the Banamex variable compensation plan.
While Citi’s review of these matters is ongoing, Citi believes the fraud is isolated to this particular client within the Banamex accounts receivable financing program. Based on its continuing review, Citi will determine whether all or any portion of the $33 million of direct loans made to OSA and the remaining approximately $185 million of accounts receivable due from Pemex is impaired, taking into consideration the impact to OSA and Pemex of the actions and events described herein.
Citi CEO Michael Corbat said, “Although our inquiry into this fraud is continuing, we have been responding forcefully over the past week by assessing the overall exposure to Citi, coordinating with law enforcement, pursuing recovery of the misappropriated funds, and seeking accountability for anyone involved.
“Specifically, we have been taking the following actions: first, we immediately began a ‘rapid review’ – throughout Banamex and the rest of Citi – of programs similar to the one at issue here. At this point, we believe this is an isolated incident.
“Next, we are exploring our legal options and coordinating with law enforcement agencies in Mexico. Banamex, in coordination with Pemex, has worked with Mexico’s Attorney General to initiate criminal actions in connection with this matter that, in addition to imposing just penalties on the responsible parties, may allow us to recover damages. We are exploring every available option to recoup the misappropriated funds and we will be relentless in pursuing their recovery.
In conclusion, Corbat is pretend angry. And you don’t want to see him pretend angry:
“I can assure you there will be accountability for those who perpetrated this despicable crime and any employee who enabled it, either through lax supervision, circumvention of our controls, or violating our Code of Conduct. All will be held equally responsible and we will make sure that the punishment sends a crystal clear message about the consequences of such actions,” Mr. Corbat concluded.
Of course, if this fraud ends up not being isolated, any further fraud discoveries will be reported after the next quarter’s expectation beating results, only to be revised lower when the stock has already surged even higher on completely made up number. Ah, New Normal: you are so much fun.