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Government to sell Citigroup warrants

The Citibank Building in New York

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: Well I wouldn't be surprised if the President uses some of his speech to tout some of the investments Uncle Sam has happily shed from its portfolio in recent days. In fact, today the Treasury Department is starting to auction off its so-called warrants in Citigroup. Warrants allow the holder to buy Citigroup shares at discounted prices, and the government has a half billion of them.

Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon has more.


BOB MOON: This pretty much closes the book on Citi's TARP bailout, according to Morningstar banking analyst Jamie Peters.

JAMIE PETERS: The government will no longer own any sort of voting shares for Citigroup after these warrants are sold.

Citigroup's back in the black, and taxpayers already got a thank you last year from CEO Vikram Pandit.

VIKRAM PANDIT: The bridge to the other side to a sound footing came from the American people, and I want to thank our country for providing TARP funding.

And besides a "thank you," what did taxpayers get? This latest sale is expected to add a little more to the $12 billion the government figures it's already made.

Critics worry it's also established a bad precedent, even though then-Treasury official Herb Allison insisted last year that wasn't the case with Citigroup.

HERB ALLISON: There there is no too-big-to-fail guarantee on the part of the U.S. government.

New reforms call for the orderly unwinding of big banks that fail, but Peters, at Morningstar, isn't convinced that would happen.

PETERS: If it was a Citigroup-only situation, it's possible they'd let it unwind. If it's everybody, we're going to see another bailout.

In the event, that is, of an unforeseen reversal of fortune.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.
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