If you're reading this, it means that I was actually granted admittance to this thing, thanks in part to the generosity of a Dealbreaker reader who so selflessly gave up his ticket (and opportunity to bask in the reflected glow of Vikram Pandit), in addition to a lack of background checks on guests. Hopefully it won't be too boring, and if we're able to cut the lines to get to the front of the Tickle A Vickle Booth (a new feature this year that Investor Relations thought would go a long way in fostering good-will), I'll tell the big guy you all say hello. I'll be emailing EP updates, which she'll be posting here. If there's anything you'd like to share with the board let me know and I'll try and pass it on.
- Ok, I'm in, with relative ease. They made everyone with a bag (i.e. every female, plus the males still making it to the gym) stand on a ridiculously long line to have our shit checked, but I spoke with some colorful characters so it wasn't horrible.
- An absurdly cute old lady was PISSED to see that they were letting people sans bags but with umbrellas right on through and (rightly?) pointed out that you could "easily stick something in there, like a gun, especially if the umbrella's a big one."
- Middle aged guy behind us wants to know why Chuck Prince wasn't fired, and "what Pandit's going to say about that."
- Middle aged guy behind us has had it with the checking of the bags. Asks, "What are we going to do, bring in a bomb?" Pauses, considers it and goes, "someone should bring a bomb. Wipe them out and get someone who knows what they're doing."
-We're in a ballroom with big screen TVs. All the seats are taken up front, and it feels like Rosh Hashana services.
- Wait around ten minutes
- Dick Parsons and Vikram take the stage. Dick "Keep the Faith" Parsons introduces the new board members and mentions the departing ones. Someone shouts "Thank god they're gone!" And I swear Parsons goes "Yeah!"
- Count Vikula takes the mic. He's "not going to gloss over the bad."
- Next year will be tough.
- There's been "drastic cost cutting." (Yeah?)
- "WE ARE POSITIONED TO WIN"
- Apparently there's a clear strategy for taking home that big W (separating of the businesses and somesuch).
- Citi's added risk managers.
- We anticipated a lot, but we didn't anticipate Lehman and everything that happened after. Vikula: "Trust me, I know, I was there that weekend." It. Was. Harrowing.
- All of this affected Citi.
- "We hope when liquidity returns, we'll be able to recoup these losses. We hope. We hope." Obvi, no promises.
- "Let me put TARP in perspective. Some people call it a bailout"- such a dirty little word- "Wrong. This is an investment, which we'll be repaying, with interest."
- Things are thawing a little but some of our assets might still hurt us.
- 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies are Citi Corp clients. "No one can service them like we do." (Doesn't mention A to M but you know he's thinking it)
- "Let me end on a personal note. Many of my friends, my well meaning friends, have said how unfair this is and how hard this must be for me. I tell them that what's not fair are our shareholders who've lost all their money and our employees who've lost their jobs. I'm going to do right by them. As the economy turns, you'll see the full power of Citi. No financial institution has the ability to bounce back higher or harder than Citi... we're not just going to return to success, we're going to excel. I intend to see this through. " So suck it those of you saying he's getting fired (SheBair.)
- Parsons: "Thank you, Vikram. Well said. This should prove lively."
- Parsons' purple checked tie- edgy.
- Unlike other firm's shareholder meetings, there won't be a clock/time limit. "We won't be doing that today. Take as long as you want."
- For those of you who want to share a personal story with us or Vikram- there's a help desk outside the room.
- MRS EVEYLYN DAVIS IN THE HOUSE! She tells us she's been married 5 times. She has 3260 shares, having added 2000 when "it was 60 cents." People laugh at the hyperbole.
- The Government owes her money
- "Nationalization is not an option!"
- Asks Parsons if there's anyone in the audience from the Treasury who can talk TARP.
- Parsons says we'll see as the day goes on, tries to shush her, gets SHOT DOWN.
- "I am the nations leading minority stockholder. You are talking to Eveylyn Davis. Come on Dick! You and Vikram talked for 50 minutes! I am Eveylyn Davis! I want a CEO who's not perfect but who's one of us"-- Parsons assures her, "Vikram and I are one of you"-- "Nationalization is not an option! Keep the government's hands off us!!!"
- "Vikram: last year I called you the Student Prince. You've graduated. I won't say you got an A but you passed."
- Parsons: "Thank you Mrs Davis, marriage seems to agree with you."
- Some shareholder named Russel wants to know if Bob Rubin was using the corporate aircraft while he was, "Campaigning for Obama."
-Parsons: "Whenever the used the plane for personal use he paid it back. I don't think it was in connection with a campaign. He kept a political low profile."
-Russel: "There are hundreds of thousands of hours logged on the plane. My question is, when did he ever work? Cause Citi's problems go years back and as far as I can see he was never at the office."
-Parsons: "In fairness to Bob, he did a great job at Citi."
* Booing *
- A nun (seriously, no SERIOUSLY) named Sister Nora Nash wants a socially and morally acceptable response to credit cards.
- Citi needs to help people "caught in a web of debt" and "stand with America."
- Consumer lending needs an overhaul.
- Eveylyn Davis is against this proposal on credit card reform. We're in this problem because we were giving people credit cards who belonged in public housing.
- She says we need to educate these people on saving.
- Eveylyn suggests the US issue "a special government credit card to low-income housing people." (Laughs.)
- Eveylyn gets shouted off the mic ("We get it! You've mad your point!")
- White-haired shareholder whose name I missed- "Do you people know what assets you've got on your books are junk?"
- Parsons: "We think we've got our arms around it but we'll get to that in the Q and A."
- Older shareholder, Mr. D, wants to ask the board, "How many hours do you spend working for Citi a year?"
- Parsons- "Thanks for your time."
- Mr. D- "They can answer for themselves."
- Parsons-getting testy: "I don't know if I made this clear earlier, but questions go through the chairman."
- Mr.D- "Okay, you answer. How many hours have you worked for Citi this year?"
- Parsons-"Ill give you some sense of it, I can't calculate it in my head. There have been 56 meetings since July. We have to do tons of reading in prep."
- Mr. D- "We need real board elections. I want 28 names on the ballot."
- Shareholder Steiner backs Mr D. up-"The election you're having today is similar to the one they had in Cuba. Let's get a little competition in here. You've said you don't want to scare off talented board members. Like the ones up here today who've taken the stock from 55 to 1 and destroyed shareholder value?"
- Lady shareholder wants more women on the board. Dick says he wants that too.
- Oh no he di'int! My friend from the line who wanted to throw a bomb in the place, gets up and asks Parsons, "Where have you guys been? Where's the board been?? Bernie Madoff could've done a better job."
- Some guy wants to "directors who are there on the way down." Would like to know how many board members bought shares when it was at 97 cents.
- Parsons coulda woulda shoulda- "I wish I had! I bought Citi at 55."
- Spectacled shareholder is appalled by the lack of names on the ballot for the board. Says the process is "something out of Communism." He hopes in his lifetime children's history books will show that Citi is "worse than Communism."
- It's apparently a touchy subject that the directors aren't up on the stage with Parsons and Pandit.
- Russel gets back up and asks "If the directors who aren't sleeping will raise their hands. If you're sleeping, don't raise it, only if you're awake." Speaking of sleeping, li'l fella Vikula looks tired.
- Mr. D gets up and shares a story about one time when he went to a meeting, not of Citi, years ago, when the board members were on the stage and one not only fell asleep but fell off his chair. Whoa boy, that was something!"
- I want to kill myself.
- Guy whose name I missed wants to know if Citi "has done a cost benefit analysis of cap and trade?"
- Short answer: no. Long answer: "have we done an analysis of cap and trade? We have economists looking at major things that are moving that are going to affect the economy."
- Some guy proposes that fired or retiring execs be required to hold 75 percent of their shares for two years."
-My line friend jumps up to the mic and wants to know why Prince wasn't fired, "after goosing up the earnings."
-Parsons says he'll get to that in the Q and A.
- "No, now!"
- Parsons says "No, Q and A"
- Q and A!
- Russel takes the mic and says that while he likes the 75 percent proposal, but it's not enough. He wants retired or fired execs to never be allowed to sell, all stock should go to their estate and they should "Live off the dividends." Russel adds that if he were the chairman he'd have the stock back up to 55 in two years.
- YESSS. An Ed McMahon doppelganger doesn't have a question but wants to throw it out there that Sandy Weill put Chuck Prince in office even though there was "a better man for the job." And that man was boy toy CEO, "Jamie Dimon!" Also, "Chuck was no Prince. He was A BUM."
- Rick Moranis doppelganger notes "we've got capitalism for the shareholders and socialism for the directors, who are all CEOs of other firms and have each others' backs on comp."
- Eveylyn Davis wants to know how much we spent on Citi Field.
- Parsons says he'll get to it in the Q and A.
- Davis- No! Now! How much?
- Parsons- Um, a few hundred million.
- Davis- It was the stupidest thing we've ever done!
DB Reader Poll: *Is* it the stupidest thing Citi's ever done? Or are there other candidates for that title?
- Shareholder Peggy McMahon: Mr. Parsons you are running a beautiful meeting. Mr. Pandit, you are doing an amazing job in the difficult position you are in. I was born a poor woman, then I became a rich woman and now I'm a poor woman again. I hope you can make it right. Mr. Parsons no is a better person than you.
- Parsons: what's your name?
- PM: Peggy McMahon.
- Parsons: Valentine's Day's passed but you're getting something for your birthday.
- Russel starts screaming about analysts and short sellers and reverse stock splits that "don't work, they work one in a million times!" Drops an F- bomb, elicits a "be cool" from Parsons, says "I'm sorry, it's the Italian in me, I get heated."
- Peggy who I forgot to mention is wearing a bedazzled red hat, starts pumping her fists and screaming, inaudibly for like two minutes, every so often Russel going "yeah!" and riling her up. She continues a little while longer (it was for real in only a pitch canines could hear). Russel says "I'm going to need someone like you when I'm chairman of the board! We'll do it together! We'll lower expenses and get this thing up to 59 bucks in three years!"
- Davis is screaming about "the books again," how things are done differently at JPMorgan, with "Jamie Davis." More screaming, Vikram looks like he's about to bust out laughing, Parsons is telling Davis, who claims she's being shafted on answers, "No, you know it's not like that, you know our relationship's not like that, you know I respect you."
- My line friend makes an joke about considering trading in his wife like Citi should do with KPMG. Why can't we get a reputable group of accountants, huh?
- Ed McMahon- "I have a suggestion. What you guys need is the best public relations firm in the land. That's what we need to move the bank forward." Not necessarily untrue!
- I've reached my pain threshold. Vikula has too, judging by the look on his face, but only one of us can blow this place (though that'd be something if he left, too, wouldn't it?)
As I leave Davis says we need to "bring back the uptick rule to stop the short sellers and speculators."