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Citigroup affiliates to pay $180M to settle hedge fund fraud charges

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday that two Citigroup affiliates agreed to pay almost $180 million as part of a settlement on charges that they defrauded investors.

The SEC alleged its investigation found that Citigroup Global Markets (CGMI) and Citigroup Alternative Investments (CAI) "made false and misleading representations to investors" regarding two hedge funds that later "crumbled and eventually collapsed during the financial crisis."

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Those funds—the ASTA/MAT fund and the Falcon fund—raised roughly $3 billion from about 4,000 investors before falling apart, the SEC said.

The Citigroup affiliates "did not disclose the very real risks of the funds," the SEC said, and CAI even continued to accept nearly $110 million in further investments as the funds began to collapse.

"Firms cannot insulate themselves from liability for their employees' misrepresentations by invoking the fine print contained in written disclosures," Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC's enforcement division, said in the organization's release. "Advisers at these Citigroup affiliates were supposed to be looking out for investors' best interests, but falsely assured them they were making safe investments even when the funds were on the brink of disaster."

The funds were highly leveraged, according to the SEC, and neither was a "low-risk investment akin to a bond alternative as investors were repeatedly told."

CGMI and CAI both agreed to the settlement without denying or admitting to the findings of the SEC investigation.

"We are pleased to have resolved this matter," a Citigroup spokeswoman said in a statement reported by Reuters.

—Reuters contributed to this report.