Tag Archives: Vikram Pandit

Résumé Put Hall of Fame

By James Kwak

Before 2006, people used to talk about the Greenspan put: the idea that, should the going get rough in the markets, Chairman Al would bail everybody out. But there’s something even better than having the Federal Reserve watching your back. It’s the résumé put.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Vikram Pandit, former CEO of Citigroup, is starting a new firm called TGG which will . . . well, it’s not entirely clear. In one email, they claim “a novel approach to address the challenges that large complex organizations face in compliance, fraud, corruption, and culture and reputation.” (That’s the standard marketing tactic of describing what benefits you will provide without mentioning what you actually do.) Now, Pandit certainly has experience in a large, complex organization with compliance, fraud, corruption, culture, and reputation problems. Citigroup checks pretty much every box. But is it experience you would want to pay for?

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Why Not Break-Up Citigroup?

By Simon Johnson

Earlier this week, Richard Fisher – President of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank – captured the growing political mood with regard to very large banks:  “I believe that too-big-to-fail banks are too-dangerous-to-permit.” Market-forces don’t work with the biggest banks at their current sizes; they have great political power and receive almost unlimited implicit subsidies in the form of protection against downside risks – particularly in situations like now, with the European financial situation looking precarious.

“Downsizing the behemoths over time into institutions that can be prudently managed and regulated across borders is the appropriate policy response. Then, creative destruction can work its wonders in the financial sector, just as it does elsewhere in our economy.”

Mr. Fisher is an experienced public official – and also someone with a great deal of experience in financial markets, including running his own funds-management firm.  I increasingly meet leading figures in the financial sector who share Mr. Fisher’s views, at least in private.

What then is the case in favor of keeping mega-banks at their current scale?  Vague claims are sometimes made, but there is very little hard evidence and often a lack of candor on that side of the argument.  So it is refreshing to see Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup, go on the record with The Banker magazine to at least explain how his bank will generate shareholder value.  (The interview is behind a paywall, unfortunately). Continue reading

Vikram Pandit Has No Clothes

By Simon Johnson

Vikram Pandit heads Citigroup, one of the world’s largest and most powerful banks.  Writing in the Financial Times Thursday morning, with regard to the higher capital standards proposed by the Basel III process, he claims

“There is a point beyond which more is not necessarily better. Hiking capital and liquidity requirements further could have significant negative impact on the banking system, on consumers and on the economy.”

Mr. Pandit is completely wrong.  To understand this, look at the letter published in the Financial Times earlier this week by finance experts from top universities – the kind of people who trained Mr. Pandit and his generation of bank executives. Continue reading

Is Vikram Pandit in Favor of Real Reform?

Testifying today before the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit took pains to strike the right notes. Near the beginning of his prepared testimony, he said, “First, however, I want to thank our Government for providing Citi with TARP funds. For Citi, as for many other institutions, this investment built a bridge over the crisis to a sound footing on the other side, and it came from the American people.” Saying “thank you” may not satisfy many people, but it is a step in the right direction.

More importantly, Pandit said that Citigroup is on the side of the angels — in this case, the side of real financial reform:

“Citi supports prudent and effective reform of the financial regulatory system. America – and our trading partners – need smart, common-sense government regulation to reduce the risk of more bank failures, mortgage foreclosures, lost GDP and taxpayer bailouts. Citi embraces effective, efficient and fair regulation as an essential element in continued economic stability.”

When it comes to the substance, though, I’m not sure how much Pandit had to say that was new, although he took care to say it in the nicest way possible.

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Questions For Mr. Pandit

By Simon Johnson

Today, perhaps following our earlier recommendation, Mr. Vikram Pandit – CEO of Citigroup – will appear before the congressional oversight panel for TARP. (Official website, with streamed hearing from 10am).

This is an important opportunity because, if you want to expose the hubris, mismanagement, and executive incompetence – let’s face it – Citi is the low hanging fruit.

Citibank (and its successors) has been at the center of every major episode of irresponsible exuberance since the 1970s and essentially failed – i.e., became insolvent by any reasonable definition and had to be saved – at least four times in the past 30 years (1982, 1989-91, 1998, and 2008-09). 

In the last iteration, Citi was guided by Robert Rubin – self-styled guru of the markets and sage of Washington, a man who  likes to exude “expect the unexpected” mystique – directly onto the iceberg at full speed.

Mr. Pandit was brought in by Mr. Rubin to refloat the wreckage, despite the fact that he had no prior experience managing a major global bank.  Mr. Pandit’s hedge fund was acquired by Citi and then promptly shut.  And Mr. Pandit’s big plan for restructuring the most consistently unsuccessful bank – from society’s point of view – in the history of global finance: Reduce the headcount from around 375,000 to 300,000.

Here are five questions the FCIC should ask.  This line of enquiry may seem a bit personal, but it is time to talk directly about the people, procedures, and philosophy behind such awful enterprises. Continue reading