Citi Sued by ATM Customers Over Reverse Race Discrimination

Citigroup Inc. was accused in a lawsuit of racial discrimination for its policy of waiving ATM fees for customers of minority-owned banks.

The plaintiffs, who don’t bank with Citigroup, claim they were charged out-of-network fees for transactions at the bank’s ATMs in Florida, while customers from minority-owned financial institutions weren’t, according to the federal lawsuit filed Friday in Fort Lauderdale. They say the bank’s policy violates federal and California law.

“Citi intentionally discriminated against plaintiffs and those similarly situated for banking with financial institutions owned by people of the wrong race,” lawyers for the two plaintiffs wrote in the suit. They’re seeking class-action status and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

New York-based Citigroup says on its website that the fee waiver program for minority-owned banks and community development credit unions has removed fees for 440,000 customers at 28 financial institutions since 2016 in an effort to “alleviate one of the biggest barriers to banking.” The lender typically charges $2.50 per withdrawal for out-of-network customers.

The bank didn’t immediately provide comment on the lawsuit.

Consovoy McCarthy, the law firm that filed the complaint, has become known for representing conservative plaintiffs in hot-button cases, including in front of the Supreme Court. They represented Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by activist Edward Blum, in successful legal challenges against affirmative action at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.