Citi CEO strikes conciliatory tone

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit testifies during a hearing before the Congressional Oversight Panel that was created to oversee the expenditure of the Troubled Asset Relief Program on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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Kai Ryssdal: If you wanted to pick one big Wall Street bank to symbolize all that is wrong with big banks, you could do worse than picking Citigroup. Citi, of course, got one of the biggest slices of taxpayer cash during the financial crisis. The U.S. government remains its largest shareholder, which helps explain why the federal panel that's keeping an eye on the TARP -- that is the Congressional Oversight Panel -- turned its attention to Citigroup today.

As you might expect, CEO Vikram Pandit defended himself and his company. He talked about all the ways that Citi is turning itself around. But what was striking was his tone. Marketplace's New York bureau chief Amy Scott reports.


AMY SCOTT: Throughout his testimony, Pandit smiled at the panelists, gave mostly clear answers. He even sounded grateful.

PANDIT: For us, as for many other institutions, the bridge to the other side to sound footing came from the American people, and I want to thank our country for providing Citi with TARP funding.

Pandit is just the latest bank CEO to be grilled on the Hill.

Scott Tangney is with the financial services PR firm Makovsky and Company. He says these hearings are an important platform for bank chiefs.

SCOTT TANGNEY: The current situation demands that they be politician, charmer, as well as a great spokesperson for their company.

Citigroup, like other banks, has paid back TARP money. But the government still owns a 27-percent stake in the bank.

Analyst Jamie Peters with Morningstar says that may explain Pandit's conciliatory tone. But she says he's doing something right.

JAMIE PETERS: Citigroup has gone through a tremendously horrible time, you know, much more than any of the other large banks. And yet Pandit has managed to retain his job, unlike the CEOs at Wachovia, at Bank of America. We've seen turnover there.

Not all members of the oversight panel were charmed. When Pandit expressed support for some of President Obama's financial reforms, panelist Paul Atkins accused him of pandering to the bank's largest shareholder. A Treasury official told the panel the government hopes to sell its remaining shares in the bank "as soon as circumstances permit."

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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