Why Citi's Vikram Pandit Resigned: My Hypothesis

Street Still Buzzing About Pandit Resignation
Getty Images

The resignation of Citigroup's Vikram Pandit: it's about money and strategy. Nothing else makes sense.

Let's try to create a hypothesis that fits the facts.

The facts are that Citi's CEO resigned abruptly a day after earnings came out. This does not appear to be (as he claims) a thoughtful separation which was his idea. It looks more like a shotgun divorce. (Read more: Pandit Tells CNBC: I Was Not Forced Out of Citigroup )

Here's a plausible scenario: the earnings came out, Mr. Pandit met with the board, he said, "Look, here's the earnings, they are improving, I am reducing the Citi Holdings assets, and we are on a stronger capital footing. Let's discuss: 1) my strategy and what I want to do, and 2) my compensation."

(Read more: 'He Was Forced Out': Cramer )

And Chairman Michael O'Neill, or others on the board, pushed back. And it blew up. He either walked out, or was dismissed.

(Read more: In Citigroup Shake-Up, a New Show of Power by Boards )

Over what? Over strategy and/or compensation. We know, for example, that Citi's plan to increase its dividend was rejected by the Federal Reserve — that was a centerpiece of management's plan. And compensation? A majority of shareholders voted against a plan earlier this year to pay Pandit and other executives a fixed percentage of Citi's profits; the board said it would heed that vote. But no revised compensation plan was ever announced.

Other possible causes: pressure from regulators (doesn't seem to be any, although Citi would certainly want to improve relationships with regulators), and a "smoking gun" or Libor issue (would have been disclosed already) — seem less likely.

—By CNBC's Bob Pisani

Bookmark CNBC Data Pages:


Want updates whenever a Trader Talk blog is filed? Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/BobPisani.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com