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Citigroup Breakup Taxes the Imagination: Street Whispers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If the sky is blue and you need to make it grey for some reason, hire a consultant.

That appears to be the strategy employed by Citigroup (C) during the crisis, when, at the urging of regulators, it reportedly hired consulting firm Bain & Co. to look at the feasibility of separating its investment banking and commercial banking operations, according to Reuters.

Bain's report, "concluded that tax considerations made a breakup inefficient," Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source.

But corporate tax consultant Robert Willens, head of Robert Willens LLC, sees no reason Citigroup couldn't have done a tax free spin off. Under such a deal, Citigroup would simply have split up into two separately listed companies, avoiding any corporate tax.

Willens cannot conceive of how such an option would not have occurred to Bain, unless Citigroup made it clear from the outset it wanted the firm to come to a different conclusion.

"It's not like the firm they hired to look at the tax aspects said 'Oh God--geez, we forgot: You can do a spin-off!' No--there's no way that would have happened," Willens says.

In an email, Bain spokeswoman Cheryl Krauss referred "any questions regarding our work," to Citigroup. That wording sounded like a confirmation that Bain did indeed perform the analysis, as Reuters reported, but Krauss did not respond to a follow-up email seeking clarification.

Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell declined to comment.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

Follow this writer on Twitter.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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