Occupy Astoria LIC invites everyone to join us for a day of public outrage and education, Wed June 27. #OccupyTheCiti with us from 8am-8pm at the Citigroup Building in Long Island City. (event invitation) (share facebook event) (back to Citi main)
The Citi That Always Cheats:
Two Hundred Years Are Enough
As it celebrates its 200-year anniversary, the time has come for Citigroup to be put to sleep. Citigroup is a model for the Wall Street greed, fraud and failure that have devastated the lives of millions of people.
In the late 1990s, Citigroup chief Sanford Weill spearheaded the lobbying campaign to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagal Act, which barred banks from speculating with depositors’ accounts. As a souvenir, Sandy Weill received the White House pen with which the repeal was signed into law.
As a result, depositor banks like Citi were able to participate in the enormous housing market and other speculations of the 2000s. Citigroup was and remains the largest single holder of the subprime mortgages used in creating and selling the toxic securities that triggered the 2007-2009 crash.
During this time, Citigroup economists found a new name for the philosophy that has always guided the company’s policies. They called it “plutonomy” – an economy built to meet the demands and whims of the richest 1 percent. A 2005 memo by a Citigroup global strategist reads: “We project that the plutonomies (the U.S., UK, and Canada) will likely see even more income inequality, disproportionately feeding off a further rise in the profit share in their economies, capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity, and globalization… Since we think the plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger… It is a good time to switch out of stocks that sell to the masses and back to the plutonomy basket.”
Citigroup is no stranger to bailouts. In the 1970s, Citi led the banking industry’s charge into knowingly lending US-backed Latin American dictatorships more than they could repay. When major Latin American countries defaulted in 1982, Citi received a backdoor bailout from the IMF and wealthy countries like the US.
Wherever there is misery and crisis, Citi and its Wall Street siblings see the opportunity to profit. Citi subsidiary Banamex in Mexico is best-known for its massive involvement in laundering money for the illegal drug industry.
Where Are Our Demands?
We’d like to imagine we could make demands of such an organization.
We’d like to appeal to the consciences of Wall Street executives who receive million-dollar bonuses for failure, while they foreclose on underwater mortgages and throw families out on the street.
We’d like to imagine Citigroup would put an immediate moratorium on foreclosures, and help the people it has made homeless.
We’d like to imagine Citigroup would throw open the books on any and all of its wrongdoing in recent decades, just because it would be the right thing to do.
We’d like to imagine Citigroup will pay full restitutions to the investors it defrauded, and deliver a refund to the taxpayers who rescued it, along with a giant-size Thank-You card.
We’d like to imagine that Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit will finally make good on his promise to meet with Occupy Wall Street members..
We’d like to imagine that former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill will apologize for spearheading the deregulations of 1999 that helped cause the crash of 2008, and that he will return the White House pen with which the repeal of Glass-Steagal was signed into law. We want to put it in a future Museum of Corporate Crime.
We love our Mets, so we’d love it if Citi would take its disreputable name and logo away from the new Shea Stadium, since they’re not actually paying for any of it. The taxpayers gave Citigroup $45 billion in the same year that Citi Field opened.
Incidentally, the Mets and Yankees between them received more than $1.1 billion in public subsidies to build their new stadiums. Therefore the new Mets ballpark should be called Taxpayer Field.
We apologize if some of our imagined demands seem to be in a humorous vein, or academic. Given the human suffering, a moratorium on foreclosures and debt relief for individuals would certainly be the most important, life-or-death issues. But we also think the history is essential to remember.
We can always submit our appeals to the Citigroup executives and call these our “demands.” We can stand outside the building and chant, “Stop your bets – Free the Mets – Vikram must forgive the debts!” But we’ve learned enough from 200 years of Citigroup history to know how its executives will respond to our demands.
We have seen that the banks who caused the 2007-2008 crash – like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs and Bank of America – were rewarded for it. With help from our captured government, today they are bigger, and more powerful and more dangerous than ever.
As long as it’s profitable, Wall Street won’t stop committing fraud. Vikram Pandit won’t do the right thing just because we ask nicely. Citigroup won’t surrender to reason without a peaceful and powerful political struggle of the people.