(Bloomberg News) A lawyer for six former Citigroup Inc. brokers who sued to avoid paying back balances on their signing-bonus loans should pay the bank for its legal fees, the federal judge who dismissed the case said.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in New York granted Citigroup's legal-fee request in a ruling yesterday. Kaplan dismissed the brokers' claims in April. The amount of the fees hasn't been determined.

"This lawsuit was completely without merit," Kaplan wrote in his decision. "As the court previously found, the lawsuit amounted to an attempt to use the judicial process for the quite improper purpose of simply stalling" Citigroup's effort to get its money back from the brokers.

Kaplan said the brokers' lawyer, Mark Thierman of Reno, Nevada, should pay the fees. Thierman, representing Thomas Banus, sued Citigroup in August 2009. An amended complaint in October of that year added five other former Citigroup brokers, who the bank said received signing bonuses. The bonuses totaled $1.51 million, ranging from Banus's $45,675 to as much as $801,546.

The plaintiffs sought class-action, or group, status on behalf of at least 500 brokers employed by Citigroup during the previous six years who executed promissory notes.

'Bad Faith'

"Mr. Thierman filed this action for the improper purpose of delaying pending arbitration proceedings," Kaplan wrote. He said Thierman's arguments were brought in "bad faith."

The brokers appealed Kaplan's April decision dismissing the case.

"If we're wrong, it doesn't mean we acted in bad faith," Thierman said yesterday in a phone interview. He declined to comment further on Kaplan's ruling.

The brokers asked Kaplan to rule that they didn't owe the money. Newly hired brokers are typically given loans, portions of which are forgiven annually for a number of years. If the broker leaves before the loan is completely forgiven, the remaining portion must be paid back with interest.

Banus called that requirement "unconscionable" in his complaint. He said he shouldn't have to pay all at once the $39,000 left on his forgivable signing-bonus loan when he quit in 2006.

The New York-based bank contended the brokers couldn't argue they didn't get anything of value for the loans or that it's an "unconscionable penalty" for them to have to repay the forgivable loans if they leave the company, according to a court filing.

The case is Banus v. Citigroup Global Markets Inc., 09-cv- 07128, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).