The end is nigh for yet another great American company: Citigroup (NYSE:C), once the greatest U.S. financial institution of them all.
As Tom Brown and I have noted many times, the whole idea behind Citigroup was flawed from the start. Unbeatable scale in financial services? Forget it. We now see the good Citi's size has done for investors: the company has an incoherent, unworkable business model. It is run by a senior management team that's largely unproven, with scant experience operating a large financial institution. And the company's risk controls (if the past few years are any evidence) are hopelessly inadequate to the task.
While the conventional wisdom says Citi is too big to fail, the reality is it's too big to manage. As a result, the company has become a publicly traded incarnation of Murphy's Law: anything that can go wrong almost certainly will-and probably sooner rather than later. And $25 billion in TARP money isn't going to do much to turn things around.
Citibank in its present form cannot, and almost certainly will not, continue to exist.