Today's Outrage: Citigroup Stiffs Stockholders

Citigroup is playing fast and loose with its shares and stockholders won't be getting a vote.
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If you own


(C) - Get Report

shares, you're a chump.

It's not your fault, mind you. You've been played by Citi. And no one is calling them on it -- the


and the


are playing along, in fact.

You've been had.

Citigroup is playing fast and loose with its shares

and stockholders get no say in the matter.

It's all spelled out in the bank's press release today stating that it plans to dilute the holdings of common stock holders by converting preferred shares into common shares, and then it will conduct a reverse stock split to reduce the total number of outstanding common shares.

Now here's the part of the press release that makes you a chump: "Shareholder approval to increase Citi`s authorized shares is not necessary."

Citi goes on to say that the NYSE granted an exception to shareholder voting requirements. The plans are on file with the SEC, and Citi's release suggests it doesn't anticipate any problems proceeding.

The plan to get the government and other owners of preferred shares to convert to common shares will first dilute the holdings of investors who currently own common shares. Don't like that? Too bad.

Then comes a reverse stock split that will convert some number of shares into a single share with the same relative value as the combined shares previously held. Of course that assumes the shares hold onto that value. Do you feel lucky?

It's not just common shareholders that are getting played here. Citi also is cleverly pushing its bailout repayment risk onto the government with these initiatives. If it all goes through, taxpayers will have to hope for a major rebound in the bank's share price in order to recoup the "investment" the U.S. Treasury made.

For Citi, though, it might actually be better if the share price doesn't rebound quickly. If the price drops after the reverse stock split, the bank would be able to launch a buyback and get more shares for less money. Ultimately, the government could be repaid for pennies on the dollar.

This is a great model for all of the other financial institutions that "sold" preferred shares to the government. That's a long list.

In addition to the $40 billion in preferred shares of Citi held by the government, other big government holdings include: $45 billion of preferred shares in

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

; $25 billion worth of preferred shares in

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

; $25 billion in preferred shares of

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

; $10 billion of preferred shares of

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

; and $10 billion of preferred shares of

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report


All told, the Treasury's list of preferred share holdings is nine pages long and totals $198.5 billion.


(AIG) - Get Report

is listed separately under the heading of "Systemically Significant Failing Institutions" with $40 billion of preferred shares.

Why not convert all those preferred shares into common shares and let the market decide how much taxpayers get repaid? Heck, taxpayers might stand a better chance of seeing some money return to the Treasury.

As for common shareholders, well, too bad. Citi clearly demonstrated no one cares what you think.

Hall is the editor of

. Previously, he served as deputy editor and chief innovation officer at

The Orange County Register

and as a news manager at

Bloomberg News

in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. As a reporter, he covered business and financial markets, worked in both print and television in the U.S. and Europe, and conducted in-depth investigative coverage at

The Journal-Gazette

in Fort Wayne, Ind. His work also has been published in a variety of newspapers including

The Wall Street Journal


The New York Times


International Herald Tribune

. Hall received a bachelor�s degree in journalism and political science from The Ohio State University and has taken graduate management science courses at Boston University.