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Citi equities insiders on the real problem: London management; poor promotions

When Ardith Lindsey, the former Citigroup managing director, released her complaint against the bank last year, claiming that an abusive relationship with a senior colleague had left her with PTSD, it caused outrage. A series of texts sent to Lindsey from Mani Singh, Lindsey's former Citi MD boyfriend, with whom she says she was in a coercive and non-consensual relationship, seemed dangerously unhinged. Last week, Bloomberg followed-up with an article suggesting it wasn't just Singh; harassment in the unit was allegedly endemic. 

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Citi declined to comment for this article, having previously denied Lindsey's accusations, but sources at the bank say that working in equities there, particularly in the US, has been hard. They point a finger at a lack of clear management, and the fact that, somehow or other, the wrong people kept getting promoted. 

"The real question in this is how Mani Singh made it so high up at Citi when he was out of control" says one Citi equities professional.  Singh, who left Citi in December 2022, has also not commented for this article. He is not a named defendant in Lindsey's lawsuit and her claims against him have been neither repudiated nor validated. However, texts sent by Singh to Lindsey are shared in her complaint. They include threats to her children and blatant misogyny: “Your kids[‘] life will be ruined from here on in," “Taking you down in comp[ensation]. Hard. Like a b*tch you are”; and “Obv[iously] I plan to use . . . [m]y power. Obv[iously] comp[ensation] is just st[a]rt of where I take it all out." 

Lindsey says Citi were made aware of the texts, but there's no sign that Citi let go of Singh, who is also known as Manvinder Bathal. His FINRA registration is unmarked. The New York Times says he quietly resigned. 

Singh was promoted to managing director at Citi in 2015. In 2017, he became Global Head of Platform Sales. In 2020, he was promoted again North America Markets (“NAM”) Head of Cash Equity Execution Services and then head of Cash and Futures Execution. Lindsey herself was promoted to managing director on the electronic sales trading desk in 2021.

The New York Times cites three of Lindsey's colleagues who claim she was having a relationship with Singh as early as 2018. Sources at the bank tell us that she at one point received a large loan from Singh, worth $200k or more. "Singh was a problem, but Ardith benefited [from the loan]," alleges one insider. "The bosses at Citi were not minding the store."  

Jeremiah Ladevaia, Lindsey's attorney, says: "Ms. Lindsey’s conduct did not contravene Citi policy, and she returned the money to him in fewer than two months." He adds that references to the loan are simply an attempt to smear her and to detract from her poor treatment: "This matter was raised during a separate investigation in 2019 due to Mr. Singh’s use of a personal Citi bank account. Ms. Lindsey fully cooperated with the investigation."

Citi itself said previously that it questioned Lindsey at the time of the "large transaction" and that she claimed then that Singh was only a friend. Nonetheless, sources at Citi question how it was that the abusive relationship was allowed to continue for so long. 

Some point to the fact that Citi's equities sales and trading business has long been primarily managed out of London, leaving the US team with less supervision. The equities business is currently run by London-based Fater Belbachir, who arrived from Barclays in August 2020. Belbachir was preceded by London-based Murray Roos and New York-based Dan Keegan who ran the business together between 2015 and 2020 (Keegan stayed on until 2022 before leaving to found a fintech fund and is not mentioned in Lindsey's complaint). Between 2008 and 2016, equities was run by Derek Bandeen, who was also based in London. Only the current head, Belbachir, is mentioned by Lindsey, who accuses him of encouraging a sexist environment and supporting Singh. Citi strongly denies this.

Some Citi insiders in the US say the London skew allowed the US culture in the equities business to deteriorate. "Imagine having all your most senior people in London," says one. Others, however, contest this - either saying that London behaviors can be challenging too, or pointing out that the alternative would effectively be for all US banks to manage their businesses from New York. 

If Citi wants to change the culture in its equities business, insiders say the real key will be to promote people with integrity and to remove partiality from the process. Andrew Morton, the (also) London-based current head of the markets business, is trying to clean up Citi's act. However, there are gripes, too, that the past is repeating itself and that the most recent round of equities promotions fell foul of favoritism and saw the promotion of friends of senior managers. "It's a problem," says one insider. "But it's been like this for a while. The culture makes it very difficult to succeed. A lot of people have left."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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