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No Cookies For You, Citigroup!

We already knew there was a crisis of confidence about Citigroup. It appears there's also a major crisis of confidence within Citigroup. As the Journal reports in its terrific page one story this morning:

The [federal government] scrutiny has Citigroup executives second-guessing everything, right down to the fresh-baked cookies offered at a recent corporate retreat in Armonk, N.Y. Seated in plush chairs around a three-story stone fireplace, some attendees wondered aloud if the cookies themselves might be portrayed as a frivolous use of taxpayer money.

In the wake of the airplane flap, federal regulators have begun demanding more detailed information from Citigroup about corporate expenses and individual departments' operating budgets. The government is specifically requesting information about expenses for any lavish parties or other corporate events.

The detailed nature of such requests startled some Citigroup executives, who weren't expecting to fork over such granular information. The company has responded by preemptively canceling several events, including a private-investor conference in Miami slated for April, where hotel rooms for hundreds of people were already reserved. A few groups of Citigroup bankers had planned to take top clients on ski trips in the Rocky Mountains; those plans were shelved. At the Inter-American Development Bank's annual conference, scheduled for March in Colombia, Citigroup won't be hosting its normal after-hours parties.

I can't imagine the administration is sad to see stories like this, given how hard it's going to be to sell Congress and voters on more money for the banks.

--Noam Scheiber