Jonathan Weil writes that it’s ridiculous for CitiGroup’s Vikram Pandit to serve as co-chairman of the World Economic Forum in his column, “Pandit Does Davos, One Percent Gloat, Madness Reigns:”
Sometimes a single fact stands out amid all the clutter, offering a flash of insight and clarity. Here is one of them: Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit is a co-chairman of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland.
At first blush, the notion might seem almost ho-hum, a non- event. Upon further consideration, this looks like it can’t possibly be right. Then it turns out, much to our amazement, that the story is accurate, confirming once again that our world is stark mad. You really have to wonder why anyone outside of Citigroup would pick Pandit to lead anything.
It’s one thing for Citigroup to blow itself up so spectacularly that it needs multiple taxpayer bailouts to stay afloat. What seems strange is that an organization like the World Economic Forum would honor the fellow who was Citigroup’s CEO throughout most of the financial crisis, by selecting him as one of its six co-chairmen. If Sheila Bair had gotten her way when she was head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Pandit would have been fired years ago.
It’s stunning when you think about it: How does Pandit, who owes much of his fortune to the American public’s largess, wind up being showcased as a paragon of leadership and free enterprise, little more than a year after the U.S. Treasury finally sold the last of its Citigroup common stock?
And what message are the rest of us are supposed to take away from this? That his example is to be celebrated?