BUSINESS
08/21/2012 07:53 am ET

Citigroup Is Just The Right Height: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Thing One: Citigroup Is Juuuust Right: Like Billy Joel, Vikram Pandit loves Citigroup just the way it is.

The Citi CEO told the Financial Times that the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets would not go changing to try and please anybody. Certainly not Pandit's infamous predecessor, the money-destroying Bond villain Sandy Weill, who built Citigroup into a shambling behemoth in the 1990s, setting the gold standard for banks being too big to fail. Weill recently had a stunning change of heart and said that maybe banks had gotten too big after all. Now he tells us!

Pandit told the FT he just could not disagree more, saying the once-biggest U.S. bank, which nearly did not make it through the financial crisis, had shed about $600 billion in assets and was now focused on good old down-home banking, the way God intended. In fact, Pandit suggested we Americans should hardly even bother thinking about the bank any more, now that it gets about half of its business from emerging markets such as China. Today Citi announced it had become the first Western bank to issue its own branded credit card in China, which will have the world's biggest credit-card market by 2020, Bloomberg writes.

Not discussed in the interview: The future of Pandit's $14.9 million pay package, which Citi shareholders rejected way back in April, and about which the bank has stayed studiously mum, notes CNN/Money's Maureen Farrell. Also not discussed: How a bank with $1.9 trillion in assets, whose capital plans were also smacked down by the Federal Reserve earlier this year, is still not too big to fail.

Thing Two: Where Have You Gone, Jamie Dimon? Maybe Pandit is auditioning for the role of crusader-in-chief for the big banks. The current holder of that title, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, is hamstrung by his bank's London Whale debacle and a host of other legal and regulatory headaches, Bloomberg notes. That leaves Wall Street "leaderless" at a time when normal humans despise banks and want to regulate them. Whatever shall the banks do, aside from doubling their lobbying cash in the past five years?

Thing Three: Apple, With An Asterisk: America's foremost maker of shiny distractions is now the biggest-ever U.S. company by stock-market value, at about $623 billion. That tops the previous record of $616 billion set by Microsoft back in 1999. Except! Careful students of economics will recall that $616 billion bought a little bit more in 1999 than it does today. Adjusting for, what do you call it there, inflation? Apple still does not top Microsoft's record, notes Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review. For some reason, none of our major news publications cared about this annoying little factoid, with the Wall Street Journal choosing to front-page the story. To be fair, yesterday was an extraordinarily slow news day.

Thing Four: Losing Facebook: Not in any danger of getting into a market-value controversy? Facebook, whose shares continue to plumb new depths as insiders abandon it willy nilly. The latest and most embarrassing is the billionaire Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, who cashed out most of his remaining stock in the company after its IPO lockup period ended. He has dumped nearly $1 billion worth of Facebook stock since the IPO, the Associated Press notes.

Thing Five: JOBS Act Opens Door To Fraud, Banks Afraid To Walk Through: The horrible, no-good JOBS Act, passed back in April, opened the door to the sorts of terrible Wall Street IPO shenanigans not seen since the go-go 1990s. Banks seem afraid to take one of those opportunities, though, the Wall Street Journal notes: Though the JOBS Act lets them write research reports about newly public companies any time they like, the banks have agreed quietly to wait 25 days from the IPO before publishing research. Not because they're worried about misleading or manipulating investors! No, that would be silly. Rather, they're worried about getting sued.

Thing Six: Auditing The Auditors: The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has reviewed the work of auditors reviewing the books of brokerage firms and found their work sorely lacking, Floyd Norris of The New York Times writes: "The many auditors who inspect the financial statements of brokerage firms appear to be cutting corners and not doing all the work they should do, a worrisome sign after the collapse of the Peregrine Financial Group, a leading commodities brokerage firm, where a fraud had gone undetected for many years."

Thing Seven: Another Small Fish Down: Doug Whitman, a San Francisco hedge-fund manager with about $100 million under management, has been convicted of insider-trading charges as part of a broad government crackdown, the Associated Press writes. The message continues to be: If you're too small to care about, the government will send you straight to jail. If you're big enough to wreck the global economy, you're free to go.

Thing Seven And One Half: RIP Phyllis Diller: The trail-blazing and hilarious Phyllis Diller died yesterday at the age of 95. Ordinarily acerbic comedians young enough to be her great-grandchildren flooded Twitter with tributes to her wit and style yesterday. The New York Times writes: "Her success proved that female comedians could be as aggressive or unconventional as their male counterparts, and leave an audience just as devastated. She cleared the way for the likes of Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres and numerous others." Most importantly, she was just funny, as HuffPost Comedy demonstrates.

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Calendar Du Jour:

Economic Data:

Nada.

Corporate Earnings:

Before Market Open:

Barnes & Noble

Best Buy

Medtronic

After Market Close:

Analog Devices

Dell

Heard On The Tweets:

@LaMonicaBuzz: Tomorrow will be fun. Fed minutes. Over-analysis of what happened 3 weeks ago in order to make bold predictions about what Fed will do next!

@zerohedge: Final tally: AAPL adds more in market cap today than Valero, T Rowe Price, Agrium, Vornado, Bed Bath Beyond, or Pearson (owner of FT)

@jonathanalter: Krugman fillets Niall Ferguson for bogus Newsweek cover http://t.co/SNfEN0Xy PS: NYT says Niall urged Ryan to run for president.

@amaeryllis: People who say reproductive rights are a "distraction" from the economy ignore the fact that reproductive rights ARE economic rights.

‏@umairh: At least we know we're not in the Matrix. This is all way, way too dumb for a simulation.

-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.

And you can follow us on Twitter, too: @markgongloff and @byKhadeeja

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