Ex-Citi employee was fired for refusing to fudge data to OCC, she says

A former Citi employee sued the bank Wednesday for allegedly firing her after she refused to fudge records needed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Kathleen Martin was the bank’s interim data transformation chair when Chief Operating Officer Anand Selva allegedly asked her to hide information from the OCC because the data would make the bank “look bad,” she alleged in a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Martin’s job was to “revamp [Citi’s] data processes and avoid further legal jeopardy,” and she was hired in 2021 after the regulator fined Citi $400 million in 2020 due to a “pattern of misconduct” in its data governance practices, the complaint said.

Selva became the bank’s COO — and Martin’s direct manager — in 2023. Martin alleges that Selva pressured her to lie to regulators about Citi meeting certain metrics “almost as soon as he was promoted.”

Selva was concerned that by reporting data accurately, Citi would “highlight gaps,” which would be a “bad thing,” the suit alleged.

“The more Martin pushed back against this unlawful activity, the worse things got,” eventually leading to her being fired on Sept. 25, 2023, according to the suit.

The timing of Martin’s departure may make motivation difficult to show. The bank, also in September, launched its wide-scale reorganization, which had trimmed the bank’s head count by 7,000 employees as of March.

She was fired despite Citi’s internal documents showing she “exceed[ed] expectations,” and even CEO Jane Fraser praised Martin’s “gravitas” and her ability to build “strong relationships” at the bank, the suit alleged.

A Citi spokesperson told Banking Dive, HR Dive’s sister publication, via email that Martin’s “lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it.”

An OCC spokesperson said that the agency “does not comment on private lawsuits.”

Martin has requested the court reinstate her to the same seniority status she would have had if not for the alleged retaliation. She also seeks back pay, including bonuses, performance-based compensation, deferred compensation, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Martin’s attorney, Valdi Licul, a partner at Wigdor, told Reuters that her client “at all times acted to protect Citi’s interests.”