Citigroup whines about federal interference

Life at the big bank, with regulators watching every move, just doesn't seem that fun anymore.

By Andrew Leonard

Published February 25, 2009 5:19PM (EST)

Yves Smith and Felix Salmon have already conducted their line-by-line deconstructions of the Wall Street Journal's big piece this morning, "Citigroup Chafes Under U.S. Overseers," so I don't have to. I agree, it sounds like a lot of aggrieved whining from Citigroup execs to supportive Journal reporters.

But I disagree with Felix Salmon's interpretation of one key paragraph.

From the Journal:

Friday afternoon, after the bank's shares had closed the week at an 18-year low of $1.95, top executives reached out to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the New York Fed ... The conversations were constructive, but they couldn't progress much until they heard from Treasury ...

Through the weekend, Citigroup didn't hear from Treasury officials. Then on Sunday evening, Mr. Pandit's phone rang. It was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, calling with a message: "I think we just need to do something." Mr. Geithner was short on specifics ...

Felix Salmon gets upset:

No, Tim! "We need to do something, this is something, therefore we need to do it" is exactly what was wrong with Paulson's approach to your job. What your country needs from you is something much more thought-through and strategic.

Wait a minute. Who could possibly be the source for this nugget of information? It has to be Pandit, or someone Pandit recounted the story to. Pandit's job security is hanging on a thread. I don't think we can consider him a reliable narrator, especially when the quote is relayed anonymously in a Wall Street Journal article designed to make federal regulators look bad. Let's get a little bit more detail on what actually happened during that conversation before we start impugning Geithner's strategy or lack thereof from it.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew LeonardFOLLOW koxinga21LIKE Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Globalization How The World Works