An industry regulator fined Citigroup Inc. $725,000 for not disclosing conflicts of interest in the bank's research division.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Wednesday that Citigroup Global Markets failed to disclose the conflicts in reports that it published between January 2007 and March 2010.
FINRA, which is industry funded, said Citigroup was paid for services to some companies but did not disclose the relationships in research reports.
Ordinary investors often rely on such research reports when deciding whether to buy or sell stock in a company. So banks must disclose if they do business with a company in their reports.
Citigroup said in a statement that it began improving its disclosure process even before FINRA's inquiry began. The bank did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
The industry group said the disclosure lapses happened "largely as the result of programming and technical errors and deficiencies."
The settlement said Citigroup printed about 80,000 research reports a year and covered more than 3,000 companies, according to FINRA's settlement.
Citigroup relied on outside contractors to identify all possible conflicts of interest with those reports, and set up a system to include the necessary disclosures in each document. But sometimes the databases kept by outside contractors did not exactly match the databases kept by Citigroup, and some conflicts slipped through the cracks, according to FINRA.
During the first 11 months of 2007, for example, the bank did not disclose that it was the manager or co-manager of public offerings for companies in its report. The disclosure was missing from about 8 percent of its reports in that time.
Citigroup pointed out many of the problems voluntarily, according to the settlement.