The anger was evident at Citigroup's annual meeting, where all nominated directors were elected but shareholders took turns at the microphone to object to how the bank has been operating.
The meeting is usually a well-attended affair lasting many hours as shareholders air their grievances, and Tuesday's gathering was as somber and full of ire as ever. When Citi Chairman Richard Parsons recognized the five departing members of the board, who include ex-chairman Win Bischoff and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, one man from the audience yelled out: "Thank God you've gone!"
Despite the rancor on the floor, all returning directors and four new ones were elected with at least 70 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. And while some shareholder proposals came close to passing, preliminary results showed that none did.
Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit tried to bring a more upbeat atmosphere to the ballroom at the New York Hilton hotel, emphasizing to shareholders that Citigroup is not the same company it was just a year ago, when it was became clear the bank was buckling under the weight of billions of dollars in bad debt.
In his opening remarks, Pandit said the four new board members will bring "new eyes" to the bank. He also discussed the "new structure" that has split the bank into two parts, and the "new strategy" and "new beginning" that the company is embarking on.
"Citi is one of the great business opportunities of our age," Pandit said. He added: "I believe to my core that Citigroup has what it takes to rebound, what it takes to rebuild."
The four nominees include former U.S.Bancorp CEO Jerry Grundhofer; former Bank of Hawaii CEO Michael O'Neill, former Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Anthony Santomero; and William S. Thompson Jr., former CEO of bond investment manager Pimco.
While many shareholders have been calling for change at the board level for years, some say the new nominations don't go far enough.
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Kenneth Steiner, who said he owns about 10,000 shares, supported a proposal that would require the company to nominate two candidates for every board position instead of just one.
"Right now, it's a non-election, basically," Steiner said. "We know who's going to win."
Shareholders—many in suits, a few in baseball hats and jean jackets, and one in a beadazzled red satin cap—brought up other issues, too, questioning Citigroup's underwriting standards for credit cards, the government's involvement in the bank, executive compensation and the decision to sponsor the New York Mets ballpark, Citi Field.
Evelyn Y. Davis, a long-time shareholder who every year takes several trips to the microphone, called the Citi Field deal the "most stupid thing" and a waste of shareholder money.
Other shareholders called the board "Byzantine," "communist" and "socialist."
Steiner said it is ridiculous that a board composed of CEOs and former CEOs gets a say in Citigroup executive's compensation while shareholders do not.
"It's like having the Yankees determine the salary of the Mets," he said, referring to the two New York-based baseball teams.