When Citicorp and Travelers Group agreed on a historic merger in 1998, the heads of the two companies placed a courtesy call to inform the Treasury Department. Then they held a news conference to suggest that Congress change the law to allow their union. Congress soon complied.
It was a signature moment for a bank that has long taken big risks with the conviction that it is irreplaceable. Over the past century, Citigroup has repeatedly launched new strategies to make money, then stumbled and lost money, forcing the government to restore its health.