So Citigroup repaid the Feds billions last week ahead of schedule. They did so to get out from under the cap on executive pay that came part and parcel with taking the greatest taxpayer windfall bailout in human history. Citigroup wanted to get out from under the pay cap so they could pay their executives the gazillions of dollars Wall Street says it must pay its senior executives And when one says “Wall Street” one really means the senior executives of Wall Street firms are saying that they, the senior executives , must receive gazillions of dollars in compensation otherwise they won’t work for they, the senior executives. And, oh the sweet irony of it all, Citigroup raised the money to pay back the Feds by dumping its own stock sending its embarrassingly low OTC-quality share price even lower, thereby putting the shaft to its own stockholders. And now, because Citigroup has so watered down its share value that the Federal government is going to have to sit on the shares it still owns longer to keep from sending the stock down even further (necessitating another bailout in the TARP that never ends.)
OK, I watch the actions of Citigroup have to put on my Columbo hat to ask the painfully dump, plain questions. Excuse me, but aren’t the Wall Street senior executives who claim that Wall Street senior executives must be paid gazillions of dollars the same Wall Street senior executives who drove their Wall Street banks—and the rest of the nation—into the financial ditch last year? And, let me get this right, now these same Lords of Finance have tanked their own share price to pay them selves high-fiving bonuses of the sort they paid themselves while driving the economy into the ditch last time? And aren’t this the same Wall Street executives who, after getting gazillions in bailouts and paying themselves gazillions in bonuses who are still sitting on their money and not loaning to consumers and small business?
And, I don’t want to be a bother about this but I’m just trying to get it straight– no-ones saying a peep about it? Not one Citigroup executive has been dumped by the Board of Directors over this yet? No Citigroup shareholders are filing the Mother of all shareholder lawsuits? Not even one puny Citigroup VP has been lynched from a Central Park tree by a posse of homeless Citigroup shareholders?
In the immortal cinematic masterpiece “History of the World Part I” the Roman emperor is saluted by his centurions with the cry “F- the Poor.” Citigroup ought to change its letterhead to read “F- America.” I mean, these cats really, really don’t care.
At this festive time of the year I give my students several holiday-related extra credit writing opportunities. (For instance, “Were the Maccabees freedom fighters or terrorists?”) One sterling classic question concerns that immortal man of business, Ebenezer Scrooge: “Was Scrooge a better capitalist before or after the visitation of the three Christmas spirits?” I personally feel he was a much better capitalist after the visitation when he spent more on his clerk and the poor than before when he miserly hoarded his money. You see, the spirits taught Scrooge something about capitalism and money that he didn’t understand: putting a ton of cash into a handful of pockets is not capitalism—its feudalism by another name.
As Dolly Levi used to say, “Money is like manure—it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around. Otherwise she might have added, its just a big, stinking pile of….well, of manure. And my, do those Citibank execs, sitting on their pile of bonus manure, smell like do-do or what?
So my final Columbo question of this yuletide is, “And you me to tell me, after they screwed their government, screwed the American people and screwed their shareholders, Citigroup executives really think they are going to get an uninterrupted nights sleep this Christmas Eve, sans ghosts?
If there are any spirits of Christmas past, present and future hanging around this year with nothing better to do, might I suggest they make a stop in at the Hamptons a remind a few Citigroup executives how truly replaceable they actually are, least they mend their evil ways?
Calling all ghosts. Citigroup’s management needs the Dickens scared out of them.