The Wachovia–Citigroup–Wells Fargo affair has been getting increasingly dramatic and, dare we say, compelling. If you haven’t been paying attention, the story up until now is this: Wachovia was struggling. It was in a tough spot financially, the market was bad, and it was looking increasingly unattractive to suitors. In real life, Wachovia is represented by CEO Bob Steel, but if this were a movie, the bank would be an aging stripper and single mother of a special-needs child played by Diane Lane, who has been used and abused by dudes playing Masters of the Universe her whole life, but who has had a particularly rough year. But one day, just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, a tall, dark, and sleekly handsome suitor walked into the strip club. That suitor was Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup.
Citi made an offer to Wachovia: With help from the government, it would buy the bank for $2.2 billion. It would take them away from all of this! But there was a catch: It would only buy the good parts — the banking operations and some wealth management — not the asset-management and retail-brokerage units. In other words, it did not want the special-needs child. Wachovia was torn: What would happen to the special-needs child? It would have to go live in a trailer with its toothless father!
But ultimately, Wachovia decided to accept the offer, because, it figured, this way it would at least be able pay the doctor’s bills the special-needs child had accrued. And so it took the money, guiltily.
But then! Another man came along. A laid-back West Coaster called Wells Fargo. They fell immediately in love. “You’re beautiful and special and you need a man that’s gonna treat you right,” said Wells Fargo, who in our minds could be played by Aidan from Sex and the City, but in reality is represented by chairman Richard M. Kovacevich. Wells Fargo told Wachovia that it would pay $15 billion for the bank, including the special-needs child it would accept into its warm and loving home. Wachovia was ecstatic! They happily planned their future together.
But when Citigroup found out, it was pissed. It would sue Wachovia, it growled, and ensure that it and its special-needs child would never, ever find happiness again, not as long as Citigroup lived!
Now both banks are fighting it out in court. The Federal Reserve, otherwise known as Social Services, is involved, and they are threatening to literally tear Wachovia into pieces! If that happens — well, this would be a pretty terrible movie.