1. Pandit's Pay Problem
Buck up Vikram. Your shareholders may not believe you are worth the money, but we here at the Dumbest Lab say you are worth every million Citigroup (C) stuffs in your pockets.
We're not kidding. Your bank has literally been a vault of dumb material for us.Let's take the bank's annual meeting Tuesday, for example, where a whopping 55% of Citi shareholders voted against the company's executive pay packages, including CEO Vikram Pandit's $15 million for last year and $10 million retention pay. The vote, which was mandated under Dodd-Frank's "say on pay" statute, is non-binding, but it still shows the deep-seated discontent among Citi investors, despite the bank's significant outperformance so far this year. Seriously, Citi shares are up 33% year-to-date, trouncing the returns of not only the S&P 500 but also rivals JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC), yet its minions still want to take a poke at Pandit? Come on guys. You almost make it too easy for us. And that's just the low hanging fruit. Last month the Federal Reserve had its own fun at Citi's expense when it barred the bank from raising its dividend, saying the bank was not durable enough to pass its stress test. And this rebuke came after Pandit had promised to hike the bank's dividend. Oh man, it's bad enough when we take our licks, but when Ben Bernanke is doing the punking, you know you've got an image problem. That said, things could be looking up for everybody's favorite whipping bank. Analyst Meredith Whitney upgraded Citigroup to hold from underperform. Yep, good old Meredith, who in 2007 made her bones by correctly predicting that Citi would be sunk by subprime mortgages, has reversed course and said something neutral, if not outwardly nice, about Citi shares. Who knows? Maybe things are changing at Citi. Heck, former Chairman Dick Parsons is leaving and you know how much joy his ineptitude gave us. Perhaps Whitney's call is finally the sign that Pandit's luck is turning and we won't have Citigroup to kick around anymore. Lord we hope not. -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.
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