Dear Vikram:Or is it Mr. Pandit, since we haven't formally met? Allow me to stick with Vikram because my family, friends, fellow Americans and I loaned Citigroup ( C - Get Report), your company, money that allowed the bank to stay in business. It appears that this was a good loan since the government said "we" made about $14 billion on the investment. I haven't had a chance to calculate how much I'll see come back to me, my family and my small business, but I trust the government to figure it out and do the right thing. I wanted to let you know about a disconcerting situation that happened to me and my small business this week that I hope is a simple mistake on your part. Some months ago, President Barack Obama said: "America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry, and now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy." Truer words were never spoken. Small businesses like mine are the engine that run this country and will be the ones to pull us out of this deep stall we find ourselves in. I was even happier when I saw your response to the president's charge: "We owe the American taxpayers a debt of gratitude and recognize our obligation to support the economic recovery through lending and assistance to homeowners and other borrowers in need." Bravo, sir. However, apparently there was some sort of snafu at Citigroup this week. The folks under you didn't get your memo. I discovered that my business credit cards had their limits drastically cut. Certain this was a simple mistake, I called your company. I was told that a recent credit review showed some adverse activity. I was shocked. My business credit? There had to be some mistake. I explained to your employee/my former partner that my bills have always been paid on time, the business is debt-free, etc. "No," she explained, this was my "personal credit and had nothing to do" with my business. Ah-ha. Great. Then there should be no problem.
At this point, my former debtor then went to the script and told me that according to my business card agreement that personal credit can be a factor in determining, etc, etc., and you reserve the right to etc, etc. I'm sure you are intimately familiar with the details of this card agreement so I won't bore you. I explained that my personal credit was taking a hit because of actions taken by a former employer, which have left me feeling like Will Smith in Enemy of the State. I assured her that these issues were going to be resolved by due process in our court system and they had nothing to do with my business. Apparently not. "This is obviously not a concern of ours," she explained. Obviously? This response caused me to wonder about "our" relationship and the words I heard you so boldly exclaim. At this point in the conversation, I was forced to bring up our previous business relationship and reminded your employee about the $20 billion in cash and the $301 billion put option "we the people" provided in your hour of need. Your employee went to page 2 of the script: "I'm not allowed to discuss that. All we're talking about right now is your situation." I explained that we were in similar situations at different moments, but she didn't deviate from the script. Each time I attempted to apply logic, I could tell she was as exasperated as I was. "No, it doesn't make sense," her voice said, but that's not what the script said, and I'm sure the fact that the call was being recorded "for quality-assurance purposes" removed any and all empathy from her position. "This isn't about us. This is about you." I would've like to have been involved in the conversation when it was going the other way at your darkest moment, and I'd like to know what you said at that time because, apparently, it worked. Vikram, you know how the rest of the call went. I'm not sure what your definition of "debt of gratitude" is, but it's vastly different than mine.
The cards help my small business operate, and your actions are not aligned with your promise to "support the economic recovery" and to assist "borrowers in need." While this doesn't shock someone like me who sees Wall Street heavies use people under them as chess pieces and cord wood on a daily basis, it will, however, shock people who expect to be treated fairly, especially after doing what we did to help you. Shame on us. Well, back to my 2011 small-business plan, which is now focused on growing my company into one that's "too big to fail." That should solve a lot of my current problems. Or maybe I'll run for office since your buddies over at Bank of America's ( BAC - Get Report) unit that used to be called Countrywide Financial like to give VIP loans to U.S. senators, just the people who need them and truly power this economy. Firing line: You and the other financial heavies may wonder why Main Street has a problem with Wall Street. You can wonder why no longer, sir: We've learned the hard way that it's a one-way street.