Two Centuries of Booms, Busts, and Bailouts at Citi
James Freeman, Vern McKinley, Fred Sanders
The alarming, untold story of Citigroup—one of the largest financial institutions in the world—from its founding in 1812 to its role in the 2008 financial crisis, and the many near-death experiences in between.
During the 2008 financial crisis, we were told that Citi was a victim of events beyond its control—the larger financial panic, unforeseen economic disruptions and a perfect storm of credit expansion and private greed. To save the economy and keep the bank afloat, the government provided huge infusions of cash through multiple bailouts that frustrated and angered the American public.
But, as Wall Street Journal writer James Freeman and financial expert Vern McKinley reveal, the 2008 crisis was just one of many disasters Citi has experienced since its founding more than two hundred years ago. In Borrowed Time they reveal Citi’s disturbing history of instability and government support. It’s a story that neither Citi nor Washington wants told.
Citi has long been tied to the federal government in a relationship that has benefited both. From its earliest years, its well-connected leadership—most of its initial stockholders had owned stock in the Bank of the United States—took massive risks that led to crisis. But thanks to a rescue by private investors, including John Jacob Astor, the bank survived throughout the nineteenth century.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The scale of the financial panic of 2008 was hardly unprecedented. As Borrowed Time shows, crisis and outright disasters have been surprisingly common during the century of government-protected banking—especially at Citi.