Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit quits

By Steven Mufson and Danielle Douglas

The abrupt resignation of Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit on Tuesday ended a turbulent five-year tenure in which one of the nation’s biggest banks avoided collapse with the help of a $45 billion rescue package provided by regulators, taxpayers and Congress. Pandit, a former hedge fund executive whose own firm imploded after being acquired by Citigroup, restored the bank’s profitability, sold off assets that weren’t part of its core holdings and repaid the government loans and investments. In 2009, he accepted a salary of $1 in recognition of the bank’s reliance on taxpayer money. But he lacked the personal and political skills to woo regulators, lawmakers or institutional investors and he left behind little affection in Washington, according to many people who interacted with him. He sometimes canceled meetings with members of Congress, was hard for government officials to reach by phone at key moments, and was often at odds with regulators, most notably Sheila Bair when she ran the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.  Some analysts, lobbyists and former Citigroup executives said that Pandit’s background in the hedge fund world was an asset in unwinding some of the complex investment vehicles and mortgage securities that helped put the bank in trouble when the economy began to collapse in late 2008.  But they said that Pandit struggled to manage such a large institution. Moreover, the bank’s deposit base did not grow and the stock price plunged to about one-tenth the level it was the day he took over.  “Citi is a lot stronger than it was. Maybe that’s faint praise, but it could have been a lot worse,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, a banking consultant in Washington. “I don’t think it’s fair to blame Pandit for the condition Citi was in in 2008. He wasn’t the CEO through the construction of the Citi edifice or excesses .?.?. [and] he came in right as the bubble burst.” “He was dealt a hand and he picked up cards that were mostly twos,” she added. “It’s hard to win a game of poker that way. Could he have it played better? Obviously the board decided he could have.”