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Vikram Pandit, Citigroup CEO: Occupy Wall Street's Sentiments Are 'Completely Understandable'

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PANDIT OCCUPY WALL STREET
Citi CEO Vikram Pandit speaks to employees at the Citi Team USA Flag-raising event at the financial center at Citi's Headquarters on July 27, 2011 in New York City. Pandit said Wednesday that he sympathizes with the concerns of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. | Getty

Vikram Pandit, CEO of one of the most visible Wall Street institutions in Citigroup, said he thinks the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are "completely understandable."

"Their sentiments are completely understandable," Pandit said in an interview Wednesday with Andrew Serwer of Fortune Magazine. "The economic recovery is not what we all want it to be, there are a number of people in our country who cant achieve what they are capable of achieving and that's not a good place to be."

Demonstrators have been camped out in Manhattan's financial district since September 17 protesting against income inequality, corporate greed and the power of financial institutions, among other topics. The protests have inspired similar demonstrations across the country.

The group in Manhattan took their march to the home of Pandit's fellow big bank executive Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch Tuesday. They have plans to demonstrate in front of a JPMorgan Chase skyscraper Wednesday. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire himself, said the protesters were wrong to pick on Dimon because he is "honorable and pays his taxes", according to The New York Observer.

But Pandit seems to think they have a point.

"I would also corroborate that trust has been broken between financial institutions and the citizens of the U.S. and that it's Wall Street's job to reach out to Main Street and rebuild that trust," he said in the interview. "I'd talk about the fact that they should hold Citi and the financial institutions accountable for practicing responsible finance."

Pandit added that he'd "be happy to talk to them anytime," noting that he would emphasize Citi's efforts to expand small business lending and their decision not to charge a fee for debit card use. Bank of America announced last month that it would start charging a $5 fee for using a debit card for purchases starting in 2012. Wells Fargo also announced it would test a $3 fee.

Pandit isn't the only famed financier expressing some measure of support for the protesters. George Soros said he sympathizes with the protesters and PIMCO founder Bill Gross said in a tweet Tuesday that the protesters are just "fighting back after 30 years of being shot at."

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