SHEILA BAIR: The Board Made The Right Decision, Pandit Didn't Know How To Execute

Sheila Bair

Photo: Business Insider

Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair has never been shy about the fact that she thinks Vikram Pandit was unqualified to run Citigroup. She dedicates a few passages to her opinion of him in her new book, Bull by the Horns.Bair’s reason for her disappointment with Pandit was, and is, that he was never a traditional banker and didn’t know how to run Citi. As the head of the FDIC, Bair had to bail the bank out three times, and struggled with Pandit’s’ leadership at the height of the financial crisis.

Now that Pandit has left, Bair is making the rounds on TV networks talking about what this means for the bank. Her ultimate point — This is good for Citi and the board did the right thing letting Pandit leave.

From Bloomberg TV:

“I think the board is doing their job and this should be a good model for other boards. There were obviously some issues, some shareholder unhappiness. I don’t want to say anything that’s not positive because I think this was a very positive move and the board discharged its responsibilities and I think they should be commended for that….I did have concerns about Mr. Pandit’s qualifications to serve as CEO of the largest commercial bank since he’d never been a commercial banker. Also, in my interactions with him–on the bailout initiatives, the ring-fence with the original Wachovia situation–I saw not a good ability to execute, not a good ability to have information, which I thought was pretty basic for anyone managing a large institution…this was a concern to me. Citi still has a very good global franchise, there’s some very positive things about Citi and I think they deserve the best of leadership. I wish Mr. Pandit well and I think he’s got skills that may be well suited at a different type of organisation, but we did see problems with execution.”

And in case you missed it, in her book, Bull by the Horns, Bair details how unimpressed she was when she met him (from the book):

Pandit looked nervous, and no wonder. More than any other institution represented in that room, his bank was in trouble. Frankly, I doubted that he was up to the job. He had been brought in to clean up the mess at Citi. He had gotten the job with the support of Robert Rubin, the former secretary of the Treasury who now served as Citi’s titular head. I thought Pandit had been a poor choice. He was a hedge fund manager by occupation and one with a mixed record at that. He had no experience as a commercial banker, yet now he was heading one of the biggest banks in the country.

Watch the full video of Bair’s Bloomberg interview on Citi and Pandit below:

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