For Citigroup, It's 2008 Over and Over Again

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- While the biggest banks have generally recovered from the financial crisis -- or, in the case of Bank of America (BAC), are recovering -- Citigroup (C) goes from weakness to weakness.

Its big news today is a $1.13 billion settlement with institutional investors who were stuck with $59.4 billion in securitized mortgages in 2008. 

That might be good news, except the settlement doesn't get the bank out of other investor claims concerning the mortgage pools. A $100 million charge will be taken against earnings on the agreement.

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That's par for the course with Citigroup. While other big banks reach big settlements and put the past behind them, Citigroup drags its past around like Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol, something Scrooge-like investors on Wall Street don't want to see.

Thus Citigroup's price-to-book ratio remains at a paltry 0.73, while rivals such as Wells Fargo (WFC) trade at more than double that.

Shares of Citigroup are down more than 10% so far this year, while the other big banks are all up on the year, albeit just marginally with the recent selloff.

Is there any reason to buy when Citigroup is facing a new criminal probe over a $400 million fraud at its Banamex unit in Mexico, while federal prosecutors in Massachusetts look at possible money laundering?

Citigroup bulls insist that the bank is loaded with potential thanks to $53 billion in deferred tax assets and $40 billion in book equity above what is necessary to support the business. The equity could be released as the tax assets are used.

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