Monday, March 2, 2009

Vikram Pandit in NY Mag

For a few seconds, the question hangs in the air.

“Would you just raise your hand?”

The congresswoman from California peers down through her spectacles at the eight men in front of her, their faces as dour as war criminals at a tribunal. It’s the congressional Finance Committee hearing in February, and Maxine Waters has demanded to know who among America’s investment-bank CEOs had the gall to take billions in federal bailout money and then raise credit-card rates on the very taxpayers who’d helped prop up their sorry companies.

Heads crane to look. Then the long, thin arm of Vikram Pandit, the chief executive of global banking conglomerate Citigroup, goes up in the air like a flag of surrender. When it drops back down again, Pandit’s shoulders slump, a weak smile of acquiescence on his face. Behind him, the Reverend Jesse Jackson glowers with righteous anger.

“Thank you,” Waters says curtly.

It’s a moment of withering humiliation for Pandit, but it’s only the latest disgrace: In the preceding months, he has barely clung to his job, as Citigroup’s board considered replacing him with a former media CEO and offered the government his head in exchange for the billions in bailout money. President Obama himself publicly rebuked him for ordering a new $50 million jet. Forced to break up Citigroup against his own strategic aims, he’s taken so much government aid that one i-banker jokes that Citi has become “the Wall Street version of the DMV.” The rank and file at Citi, their net worth destroyed, accuse him of cronyism and absentee leadership. He’s become a virtual corporate eunuch, his options narrowed to nil, making a $1 salary as a public display of humility.

The whole story is a great read!

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