Vikram Pandit Has Been Watching Too Much Citizen Kane


Citibank has been racking up a string of minor scandals of late, most recently for freezing out Michael Mayo, an analyst who pointed out that the company violated accounting rules to make itself look profitable. But the river of confusion from which these problems flow, argues the Journal, is an identity crisis at the top. Since the recession, Citibank has been lumbering around Wall Street like a multi-headed beast, trying to revive its commercial banking roots while integrating a brokerage (Smith Barney), an investment bank (Salomon Brothers), and various assorted entities it acquired under former CEO and chairman Sanford Weil. Worse yet, CEO Vikram Pandit seems "uncomfortable as the leader of one of the nation's biggest banks."

Turnover in the executive ranks has finally let up, but "ultimately, it is Mr. Pandit who personifies the problem at Citi," says the Journal. Pandit, an institutional-securities trader and hedge-fund manager who made his millions in a bull market, seems ill-equipped to lead the diverse set of senior managers beneath him. Not that he wants to talk to you about it.

[Pandit] shuns most interviews, and he is prone to overreact to criticism no matter the source, be it The Wall Street Journal or a minor blog. Reports suggest Mr. Pandit is behind Mr. Mayo's ban, a charge Citigroup denies.

Contrast Mr. Pandit to Jamie Dimon, head of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Mr. Dimon has emerged as a spokesman for the banking industry. He has fired off provoking shareholder letters and made controversial comments. Mr. Pandit has largely been silent and inaccessible in the public sphere, and that has made investors and the media skeptical.

Maybe instead of Rosebud, he can murmur about that falcon he held that one time.

At Citigroup the Hits—and Misses—Keep On Coming [WSJ]