How To Think About The Zoe Cruz Ousting, Part II: Vikram and His Voodoo

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Those who’ve been paying attention will recall that we love us some Vikram Pandit. He, of that happy, gay, elfin visage; he, of that infectiously intoxicating laughter/unbridled joy even in the face of phenomenal failure; he of that smile that can only say “Christmas in Bombay.” We love him so much that we bought into Citi’s new slogan “Make Vik Smile,” and picked up 400 shares of Citi the same day the company announced its latest trillion dollar writedown. So this, Takeaway # 2 from the NYM article, was particularly hard to take:

A longtime Mack associate, recruitment manager Jerry Wood, said that if Mack made Cruz the next CEO, their old colleague Vikram Pandit, who by then was running the institutional clients division at Citigroup, would raid the company for disgruntled Cruz antagonists. “Vikram has a paycheck in one hand and a voodoo doll of Zoe in the other, and we’re going to lose all these people if they think the future is Zoe Cruz,” he said, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

No, god damn it, no! Vikram isn’t supposed to be an evil, conniving, backstabber. He’s not even supposed to be a shrewd businessman. He’s supposed to be Lil’ Vik, of infectious good cheer, even when there’s nothing to be cheerful about! Since we cannot deal with any evidence to the contrary, we’re going to retreat to our crying room until somebody scrubs the internet (and our consciousness) of this b.s. But first, we’re going to do this.



Yeah, that felt good.

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Citigroup Investors Don't Care About Making Vikram Pandit Smile

[caption id="attachment_73871" align="alignleft" width="234" caption="Y'all can kiss this ear to ear grin good-bye"][/caption] In the spring of 2010, almost exactly two years ago to date, the New York Times reported that some of Vikram Pandit's top lieutenants had noticed "a new bounce in his step" and "a smile on his face," with one executive speculating that the Citi CEO's cheer could be attributed to the fact that he was starting to "see the day when he will earn more than $1 a year" within reach. On January 18, 2011, that day came. After essentially not receiving a salary since 2008, when he pledged to abstain from getting paid until Citi turned a profit, the board of directors approved "an increase in the annual rate of base salary for Vikram from $1 per year to $1,750,000 per year, effective immediately." It felt good. Really good. Know what doesn't? This crap. Citigroup investors rejected the bank’s executive pay plan, a first among the six largest U.S. lenders, amid criticism it lets Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit collect millions of dollars in rewards too easily. About 45 percent of the votes favored the plan, which Citigroup had argued would help attract and retain top talent, according to a preliminary tally at the New York-based firm’s annual meeting in Dallas today. While the vote isn’t binding, outgoing Chairman Richard Parsons said changes will be made. Citigroup Shareholders Reject Management’s Compensation Plan [Bloomberg]

Wall Street Bank That Might Consider Entering The Witness Protection Program Screws Zoe Cruz Out Of A Job For The Second Time

[caption id="attachment_76125" align="alignleft" width="260" caption="How people smile when they're plotting cutting your brake lines."][/caption] Earlier this week, it was announced that Zoe Cruz would be closing her hedge fund, Voras Capital Management. Cruz started the fund in 2010, a few years after she was famously fired by John Mack at Morgan Stanley (where she was co-President), for reasons that remain unclear to this day but include theories like: a) the belief that she was responsible for losing the firm a few billion dollars b) a lot of people disliked her-- including this guy named Vikram Pandi who was "not a fan"-- and told Mack they would leave if he made Cruz CEO c) Mack had to blame either himself or Cruz for some losses and he chose her. d) She was, you know, a girl, and the boys didn’t like that. Regardless, the ousting was probably mildly to majorly humiliating for ZC and since Mack-- who she was extremely close with prior to the personnel change-- was the one who told her to hit the bricks, it would have been fair to assume she spent a least a little time fantasizing about  sticking pins in a Mack voodoo doll and/or slashing his tires. In 2009, though, Mack and Zoe had lunch and she told him she wanted to start a hedge fund. And maybe it was it was the fact that he was feeling nostalgic, maybe it was the fact that tragedy + time = comedy, maybe it was the fact that he was still riding high from "saving" Morgan Stanley, maybe it was the wine, maybe it was that he was feeling bad about the unceremonious canning and thought "Oh, why not just give the poor girl some money" but Mack went back to the office and "told bank executives that he would like to help her start her new investment business, according to people familiar with the matter." And when they said, "But John, didn't you fire her for supposedly taking on too much risk and losing the firm $4 billion," he said "[Well], her track record was a very good track record." So Morgan Stanley gave Cruz $20 million and she was on her way. And while we can't say for sure, and we're not suggesting money necessarily heals all wounds, the $20 million and the stamp of approval and the fact that she could say to investors she was trying to raise money from ,"Hey look, even the guy who fired me wants in" probably helped smooth things over and improve MS's standing in the Cruz-missile's eyes. She likely even had nice things to say about her former employer at social gatherings! And then this happened: Last month, Morgan Stanley asked for its money back, disappointed by the hedge fund's performance and worried about the shrinking size of Ms. Cruz's firm, according to people familiar with the matter...The retreat by Morgan Stanley was part of broader moves to sell off assets that Chief Executive James Gorman felt exposed the company to unnecessary risk or otherwise didn't serve clients, the people said...On Thursday, the 57-year-old Ms. Cruz told clients in a letter that she has decided to close down Voras Capital Management. The letter cited "the difficult capital-raising environment for new funds and the enormous uncertainty and volatility in the markets," according to a person who saw the letter. It was signed by Ms. Cruz. Oooo, that's not good. In fact, it's worse than if they'd never given her the $20 mill at all. But to give and take back? Yikes. All those nice things Cruz said about MS and Co? Strike them from the record because they are so over! Don't call, don't write, don't cry don't beg 'cause you're done! Finished! Morgan Stanely Bailed On Firm [WSJ]

Vikram Pandit Is Committed To Getting Paid

If you didn't know Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, you might think he enjoyed not being compensated for the work he does at Citigroup because for quite some time, he wasn't. And although the "I will only get paid $1/year until Citi turns a profit" exercise was fun for a while, he was pretty happy when the old jalopy started making money again, in part because it meant he could receive a paycheck. Then last April, his shareholders rejected the bank's executive pay plan, claiming the Big C "lets Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit collect millions of dollars in rewards too easily." And while it's possible that Citi shareholders are just a bunch of pricks who chose to overlook the fact that Uncle Vikula didn't collect squat for several years and once had an entire article written about the fact that lieutenants attributed a "new bounce in his step" to him daydreaming "the day when he is going to earn more than a $1 a year,” maybe they just assume that he doesn't care about getting paid either way? Anyway, here's Vickles, reminding anyone who forgot about the sacrifices he made and setting the record straight: “The board has this process with them, they’re going through it, and they are committed, as I am, to making sure that they resolve this,” Pandit said. “I want to get paid what the board thinks is right for me, for the job that I’ve done and for the incentives that they think I ought to have.” Pandit told lawmakers in 2009 that he would take a $1 annual salary until he restored the bank to profitability. Citigroup made a $21.7 billion profit for 2011 and 2010 combined, compared with a $29.3 billion loss for the two preceding years. “When the company was losing money, I stepped up and said I’ll take a dollar a year and I did, exactly for that reason, exactly the right thing to do,” Pandit said. For those having trouble separating the nice guy/don't want to offend anyone statement from what he's actually trying to say, a rough translation of the above would be: get me paid, bitch! Citigroup Will Resolve CEO Pay By End Of Year, Pandit Says [Bloomberg]