Citigroup is the banking world's answer to Madonna

Citigroup Inc. (C) reminds me of Madonna.

Both the beleaguered bank and the pop star saw their best years in the 1980s and have evolved into parodies of themselves. Citigroup tried to create a financial supermarket while Madonna writes Kaballah-themed children's books. Using Madonna's career as a guide, Citigroup is probably somewhere between the pop diva's awful cover of "American Pie" and her decision to date a Brazilian model old enough to be her son.

I realize this is a convoluted metaphor, but Citigroup is a convoluted company. Like last year's inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall Fame, the once-mighty financial services firm is all about reinvention. How else can you explain the resiliency of CEO Vikram Pandit?

Pandit was paid $10.8 million last year when Citigroup got two government bailouts totaling $45 billion. He got no bonus and has said he will only take $1 in annual pay and no bonuses until the bank returns to profitability. Pandit, who sold his hedge fund for about $600 million, clearly is not hurting for money.

Lately, Pandit, one of the most hated CEOs in Wall Street history, has been on a winning streak. Shares of Citigroup have soared since Pandit told his employees that the firm was profitable in January and February. Unfortunately, questions remain about its long-term viability. That explains why he remains on a short leash.

Today the company nominated Jerry A. Grundhofer, Michael E. O'Neill, Anthony M. Santomero, and William S. Thompson, Jr., as independent directors.

"These outstanding individuals will be great stewards for Citi as it navigates the ongoing challenges in the present environment and works to restore profitability," Chairman Richard Parsons said in a statement.

Parsons made no mention if the new board members will be issued magic wands.


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