The story became more interesting as the day wore on after it was announced he was forced out by the board.
The theories as to why Pandit would be asked to leave got juicier as the Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) CEO's exit was paired with the co-resignation of Citi COO John Havens, a long-time associate of Pandit.
Mike Holland, chairman of New York-based Holland & Co, which oversees more than $4 billion of assets told Reuters, "It's not a shock that [Pandit] is no longer there, but the surprise is this is all happening very quickly. Why is he leaving so quickly? I'm not a Citi shareholder, but if I were I'd be disappointed that Havens is gone, in some ways more than Pandit."
The timing hinted the two exits were not simply a natural transition, but instead related to some skeletons lurking in the bank's boardroom.
Just as quick and startling was the immediate removal of Pandit's name and photo from Citigroup's Website.
The swift announcement that Michael Corbat, previously chief executive for Europe, Middle East and Africa, would replace Pandit as Citi's CEO and board member also raised some eyebrows.
So what could've caused this sudden changing of the guard?
And thank goodness. All the scandals, all the negative news, all the time, always something. I'm getting tired of writing so much.
It's my summer too, you know.
So, when my extraordinary good fortune led me into the company of a spectacular woman this past week, I escaped the Street reality, enjoyed the beach, the Hamptons... and did I mention a spectacular woman?
But just because I was out of touch (from reality) last week doesn't mean the surreal wasn't spilling out all over the Street.
Okay, so it was little stuff, but it's still stuff. And it's still surreal...
Like finding out that Vikram Pandit, CEO of that little banking outfit Citigroup, got paid more last year than the bank paid in taxes.
That's news you ask? No. Granted, we know that all those poor banks that suffered deep losses on account of a lot of sore-loser homebuyers who got the Street mantra wrong (it's "buy high, sell low," right?) won't have big tax bills for a while because they saddled the good-guy banks with huge tax loss carry-forwards.
Besides, Vik (can I call you that?) deserves it.
Can you imagine all the negative press he gets? He deserves more; I say give it to him and the other banksters who have to work so hard to keep their jobs while their firms don't have to work nearly as hard to not pay taxes.
And then I heard that Jon Corzine was thinking about yet another career move.
I was having lunch with Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, and he had some interesting points.
According to Mr. Pandit, providing money and financial services to business is still a pretty attractive undertaking on a global scale.
Of course, he was also quick to mention that top quality risk controls and much higher liquidity are absolute necessities.
"Banks need to realize they are in a new reality," he said.
He couldn't be more right.
I warned you back in August that bank stocks were headed for a "catastrophic decline," and that proved to be true.
Since that article's Aug. 17 publication, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) has tumbled 12.7%, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) fell 9.9%, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is down 5.5%, and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) is down 2.1%.
In fact, the MSCI US Investable Financials index is down 12.6% on the year and has achieved a less-than-stellar return of -12.6% per annum over the last five years.
And it's not hard to see why.
Third-quarter bank earnings were mediocre at best, and some of the special protections offered to banks are being wound down. Additionally, banks are in popular odium and demonstrations against them are erupting in every major U.S. city. And the effects of increased regulation are yet to come fully into view.
Still, for the first time since the stock price "bounce" of 2009, bank stocks are beginning to look somewhat attractive and the time to start bottom fishing may be at hand.
Banks Worth BuyingFor those few banks with genuine global networks, international banking remains on a growth curve as globalization intensifies and more emerging market companies diversify outside their own country and region. Domestically, retail banking remains a good business. Credit card losses are beginning to decline while spreads remain at record levels.
Consequently, there are very good bargain-buying opportunities at large.
Remember, though, that any investment should be made gradually over time, because while the chances of a repeat of 2008 are remote -- at least in the United States -- there is still a great deal of risk and uncertainty in the banking sector.
You should avoid banks with large exposures to problems of the past. That means staying away from Bank of America and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC). Both of these banks remain heavily exposed to West Coast real estate, and in BofA's case, to the mortgage-backed securities disaster, as well.
However, the following financial firms are worth looking at: