BUSINESS
08/21/2012 10:58 am ET Updated Aug 21, 2012

Vikram Pandit, Citigroup CEO, Opposes Ending 'Too Big To Fail'

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit -- a man of the people by Wall Street standards -- still opposes breaking up big banks like his and ending "too big to fail."

In a Financial Times article published on Tuesday, Pandit said that Citigroup is just the right size.

"What's left here is essentially the old Citicorp,” Pandit told the paper. "That's a tried and proven strategy. Why did it work? Because it was a strategy based upon operating the business and serving clients and not a strategy based on dealmaking. That's the fundamental difference."

Pandit also noted that Citigroup has been selling off $600 billion in assets as well as 60 businesses, and that half of its business now is in emerging markets such as China.

Citigroup still has $1.9 trillion in assets and is the third-largest bank in the country by assets, according to the Federal Reserve.

Pandit has been considered more populist than other Wall Street CEOs. In the years after the financial crisis, he gained notoriety for accepting an annual salary of just $1 per year. But last year he made $14.9 million, a pay package that disgruntled Citigroup shareholders opposed in an advisory vote in April. Some Citigroup shareholders sued Pandit and Citigroup's board of directors for allegedly awarding outsized pay packages to executives.

In previous public remarks, Pandit has been more sympathetic with popular complaints about big banks. He told Fortune Magazine last year that Occupy Wall Street's "sentiments are completely understandable," since "there are a number of people in our country who can't achieve what they are capable of achieving, and that's not a good place to be." He also told Bloomberg TV in January that "banks have to start serving clients and really serve them, rather than serving themselves."

But now he has stated his opposition to ending "too big to fail" -- in contrast to former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, who built the bank into the behemoth it is today but in a surprising reversal recently called for the breakup of big banks.

Back in 1999, Weill was instrumental in helping dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial banking from investment banking. But in an interview with CNBC last month, he proposed reinstating those divisions.

"What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking ... and have banks do something that's not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that's not going to be too big to fail," Weill told CNBC in July.

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