Weil on Finance: Citigroup’s Mexican Standoff

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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Welcome back, kind readers. Here's your daily links fix.

Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat has some explaining to do.

The big story of the morning comes from New York Times reporters Ben Protess and Michael Corkery, although it's important to remember that, in the U.S. these days, criminal investigations of large banks don't result in criminal prosecutions of large banks, because the Justice Department for all practical purposes has deemed them immune: "Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a recent $400 million fraud involving Citigroup's Mexican unit, according to people briefed on the matter, one of a handful of government inquiries looming over the giant bank. The investigation, overseen by the FBI and prosecutors from the United States attorney's office in Manhattan, is focusing in part on whether holes in the bank's internal controls contributed to the fraud in Mexico." Here's what I'd like to know: What was Corbat's basis for certifying that Citigroup's internal controls were effective when the company filed its 2013 annual report? Because, at least from the perspective of an outsider looking in, they sure don't seem like they were effective in all material respects.

Ken Lewis fought the law , and Ken Lewis won.

Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica has a well-reported column explaining how the former Bank of America CEO walked away from the New York attorney general's lawsuit almost scot free: "In this seminal financial crisis investigation, regulators put on a master class in how to take a strong case and render it weak."

Good heavens, do people really need to be told this ?

I guess maybe in Canada they do? Check out this headline from the Financial Post: "Don't be fooled into mortgaging your home to buy stocks." Indeed, don't! Mortgaging your home to buy stocks is very bad. You could end up living with your pets in a cardboard box on a cold street somewhere in Saskatchewan.

Here's another brilliant headline to amuse you this morning.

Brace yourself. Here it comes: "Head injury risk is high in mixed martial arts: study." Who knew?

OK, returning to serious stuff . . . Welcome back to opinion-mongering , Mark Gilbert.

Fresh from an extended working vacation as London bureau chief for Bloomberg News, Mr. Gilbert has relinquished his management shackles and is back to writing columns again, now under the banner of Bloomberg View. Here he is on European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's prospects for countering deflation, which don't look so good. "The central bank's customary playbook is to accentuate the positive and attribute weakening prices to fleeting, ephemeral factors," he writes. "Those claims ring more hollow every month." And if you must have a second opinion with which to compare, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph also has a worthy read on deflation in Europe, which he blames squarely on the ECB's monetary policy: "Frankfurt could force down the euro at any time by signalling a determination to do something about its predicament. It has chosen not to do so, hoping that a few dovish words spoken without conviction will somehow turn the global tide."

OK, enough serious. There are accountants to make fun of.

The consulting firm Booz & Company has been renamed "Strategy&" by its new owner, PricewaterhouseCoopers. That's pronounced "Strategy and," according to the firm. Or as the folks at FastFT asked: Strategy& what?! "FastFT can just imagine the pregnant pauses on telephone calls from Booz workers to clients as they introduce themselves: Hi, I'm John from Strategy and . . .."

And if you're a regular reader of this linkfest, you know I can't go a whole week without linking to something about dogs .

So here you go. From the Harvard Business Review: "The Tricky Economics of Dog Adoption."

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net