Nov 4, 2007

Allan Sloan: "Why on earth should we protect banks from their mistakes?"

If Citi's only problem is that it can't liquidate its SIVs without a profit hit, too bad. If Citi's very existence is at risk, I don't think we dare let it fail, because that would drag down institutions throughout the world. But if the bank needs help, its shareholders should have to pay. Bigtime.

Step one would be to eliminate its common stock dividend, currently more than $10 billion a year. Step two would be to force Citi to raise the capital it needs by selling new stock at a price well below its recent $42 a share. That would force holders to either ante up or have their Citi stake diluted. That just might inflict enough pain on shareholders that someone other than underlings would pay for Citi's SIV sloppiness.

In any event, if we believe in markets, Citi should have to take its chances. We small fry take chances when we borrow, and we pay the price if we're wrong. Big fish should have to do the same.

~ Allan Sloan, "Citigroup: 'Gimme shelter'," Fortune, October 29, 2007 (Nov. 12 issue)

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