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Monday, September 29, 2008

Citigroup Buys Bank Operations of Wachovia

Citigroup reached an agreement early Monday morning to acquire the banking operations of the Wachovia Corporation after making a daring bid that pulled the deeply troubled company from the brink of collapse.

Citigroup will pay $1 a share, or about $2.2 billion, according to people briefed on the deal.

Federal regulators worked around the clock this weekend to orchestrate the sale, finally reaching an agreement at 4 a.m. on Monday morning. In the end, the government agreed to provide Citigroup with a financial guarantee on Wachovia’s most risky assets. It is similar to the deal that the Federal Reserve established with JPMorgan Chase’s emergency takeover of Bear Stearns.

Citigroup will assume the first $42 billion on losses tied to Wachovia’s riskiest mortgages and will pay the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation $12 billion in preferred stock and warrants. In exchange, the F.D.I.C. will absorb all losses above that amount.

Federal regulators said the move was necessary to stave off what could have been the second big bank failure in less than a week. On Thursday, the government seized Washington Mutual and sold the bulk of its operations to JPMorgan Chase.

“This morning’s decision was made under extraordinary circumstances with significant consultation among the regulators and Treasury,” said Sheila C. Bair, the chairwoman of the F.D.IC in a statement. “This action was necessary to maintain confidence in the banking industry given current financial market conditions.”

Wachovia customers should not notice any changes. “There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual,” Ms. Bair added.

The deal further concentrates Americans’ bank deposits in the hands of three banks: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup will control more than 30 percent of the industry’s deposits.

Together, they will have unrivaled power to set prices for their loans and services. The institutions would probably come under greater scrutiny from federal regulators, given their size and reach. And some small and midsize banks, already under pressure, might have little choice but to seek suitors in order to compete.

The deal highlights just how bad the banking industry’s problems have gotten as well as the progress that Citigroup after being one of the first to suffer huge losses. Citigroup’s chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit, has recently been making the case to employees and investors that Citigroup is a “pillar of strength” in turbulent times. If he is successful, this transaction could be an important milestone.

Under the deal, Citigroup will buy all of Wachovia’s assets and liabilities — a move that should protect Wachovia’s bondholders. It will also acquire Wachovia’s big retail operations as well as its corporate and private banking. It will also takeover Wachovia’s relatively small investment banking operations, which have catered to real estate and medium-size corporations. Citigroup is leaving behind the A.G. Edwards retail brokerage operations and Evergreen Investments, Wachovia’s money management arm. Senior management decision have not been worked out, according to people involved in the talks.

With Wachovia’s branch network, Citigroup will now have one of the biggest retail banking franchises in the country after years of false starts. That should give Citigroup a larger platform to sell home loans and credit cards, and would give it access to more than $400 billion in more stable customer deposits. The bank has been aggressively trying to reduce its dependence on outside investors for funds.

The risk is that Citigroup could be saddled with tens of billions of dollars in losses tied to Wachovia’s giant loan portfolio. Wachovia has been hurt badly by its 2006 purchase of Golden West Financial, a California lender specializing in so-called pay-option mortgages. And the bank also faced mounting losses on loans made to home builders and commercial real estate developers.

To pay for the deal, Citigroup expects to raise more than $10 billion by issuing new shares of its common stock. It will also slash its dividend to 16 cents a share, the second time in the last year.

Another risk is that Citigroup has had a poor track record of putting together mergers, although it now has a new management team. Citigroup shares were essentially flat in late morning trading on Monday.

Last week, Wachovia held discussions with Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Banco Santander of Spain, before the foreign bank’s interest cooled. But the talks intensified this weekend as lawmakers worked in Washington to hammer out the details of a $700 billion bailout plan. Wachovia executives, meanwhile, huddled in the Seagram Building offices of Sullivan & Cromwell on Park Avenue.

Robert K. Steel, a former top lieutenant of Henry M. Paulson Jr. at both Goldman Sachs and then the Treasury Department, who took over as Wachovia’s chief executive in July, arrived in New York to handle the negotiations in person, along with David M. Carroll, the bank’s chief deal maker. At 8:15 am. on Saturday, Citigroup and Wells Fargo took their first peek at Wachovia’s books.

Regulators pressed the parties to move quickly. Senior officials at the Federal Reserve in Washington, and its branches in New York, Richmond and San Francisco held weekend discussions with all the banks involved. Top officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Treasury were also in the loop.

Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, personally reached out to executives involved in the process to assess the situation and spur it along. Citigroup and Wells Fargo pressed regulators to seize Wachovia and let them buy its assets and deposits, as JPMorgan did with WaMu, or provide some sort of financial guarantee, as regulators did with JPMorgan’s acquisition of Bear Stearns, according to people briefed on and involved with the process.

Both Citigroup and Wells Fargo were deeply concerned about absorbing Wachovia’s giant loan portfolio, which is littered with bad mortgages, these people said. Bankers had little time to assess the risk.

Citigroup executives considered Wachovia a make-or-break deal for their consumer banking ambitions. With Wachovia, Citigroup would gain one of the pre-eminent retail bank operations after struggling to build one for years. It would also give Citigroup access to more stable customer deposits, allowing it to rely less heavily on outside investors for funds. If it failed to clinch a deal, Citigroup’s domestic retail operations would be far behind Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Pandit, the Citigroup’s chief executive, was personally overseeing the talks

Now, the challenge for Mr. Pandit will be making the deal work. Citigroup said on Monday it expected the deal to add to earnings in the first year, excluding a $3.7 billion restructuring charge. It also expects to reap about $3 billion in annual cost savings, though it did not disclose possible layoffs. If Citigroup can pull it off, it would be a symbolic victory of sorts. For Citigroup, the deal is the largest acquisition since the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group forged the company a decade ago.

Although Citigroup has racked up nearly $50 billion in losses since the crisis began last summer and has watched the value of its shares sharply decline, the bank was also among the first to raise large amounts of capital. Mr. Pandit may point to the Wachovia deal as a sign of progress and an indication that the worst for the bank is behind it.

The deal will also be seen as a stamp of approval from regulators. Only a few years ago, the Federal Reserve took the unusual step of banning Citigroup from making "significant acquisitions." Gaining their approval to do a big deal on such short notice will probably be viewed as a big vote of confidence in Mr. Pandit’s management team.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Traffic Advisory

TRAFFIC ADVISORY

NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES STREET CLOSURES AND EXPECTED TRAFFIC DELAYS RELATING TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The New York City Police Department today announced street closures and anticipated traffic delays relating to the United Nations General Assembly. The United Nations is located at 1st Avenue and 42nd Street. The use of public transportation for the duration of the General Assembly is highly encouraged.

For the first week of the United Nations General Assembly, the following streets will be completely closed to traffic beginning Saturday, September 20th at 7 a.m. until 11: 59 p.m. Thursday, September 25th:

· 49th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue
· 50th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue
Please note: Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access:
* Park Avenue from 48th Street to 52nd Street
· Lexington Avenue 48th Street to 52nd Street

Monday, September 22, 2008

Traffic Advisory - The UN Summit

Traffic Advisory

New York City Police Department Announces Street Closures and Expected Traffic Delays Relating to the United Nations General Assembly

The New York City Police Department today announced street closures and anticipated traffic delays relating to the United Nations General Assembly. The United Nations is located at 1st Avenue and 42nd Street. The use of public transportation for the duration of the General Assembly is highly encouraged.

For the first week of the United Nations General Assembly, the following streets will be completely closed to traffic beginning Saturday, September 20th at 7 a.m. until 11: 59 p.m. Thursday, September 25th:

· 49th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue

· 50th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue

Please note: Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access:

• Park Avenue from 48th Street to 52nd Street

· Lexington Avenue 48th Street to 52nd Street

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21ST

The following streets will be completely closed to traffic beginning at 7 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. Monday, September 29th:



· 45th Street from Lexington Avenue to Madison Avenue

· 46th Street from Madison Avenue to Park Avenue

· Vanderbilt from East 44th Street to East 46th Street

Please note: Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access:

· Madison Avenue from 44th Street to 46th Street



Additional closures to vehicular traffic for Sunday, beginning at approximately 7 p.m. are:

• 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street. The tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48 Street will remain open passenger cars. Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access.

• 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2008



The following streets in the vicinity of the United Nations will continued to be closed to vehicular traffic:

• 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street. The tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48 Street will remain open passenger cars. Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access.

• 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 49th Street from 3rd Avenue to Lexington Avenue

On Monday the FDR DRIVE will be subject to intermittent closures:

• Southbound at 63rd Street

• Northbound at South Ferry

The following streets will be completely closed to traffic beginning at 7 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. Saturday, September 27th:

• 50th Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue

• 51st Street from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue

Please note: Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access:

· Madison Avenue from 44th Street to 46th Street



Additional closures to vehicular traffic for Monday, beginning at approximately 2 p.m. are:

• 50th Street from Park Avenue to 1st Avenue

• 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 50th Street

The following streets will have one traffic lane dedicated to emergency vehicles for the duration of the General Assembly:

· 42nd Street from 1st Avenue to 5h Avenue

· 57th Street from 2nd Avenue to 5h Avenue

· 2nd Avenue from 42nd Street to 57th Street



TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd, 2008



The following streets in the vicinity of the United Nations will continued to be closed to vehicular traffic:

• 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street. The tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48 Street will remain open passenger cars but will be subject to intermittent closures. Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access.

• 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 49th Street from 3rd Avenue to Lexington Avenue



On Tuesday the FDR DRIVE will remain open, but at various times throughout the morning and early evening the FDR DRIVE will be subject to single vehicle traffic lane at:

• Southbound at 53rd Street

• Northbound at 34th Street



The following will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at approximately 5:00 a.m.:

• 42nd Street from the FDR Drive to 2nd Avenue

• 42nd Street Exit and Entrance Ramps of the FDR Drive

Please note: These areas will reopen each evening after the day’s session

Additional intermittent closures to vehicular traffic for Tuesday beginning at 7 a.m. include:

• 50th Street from Park Avenue to 1st Avenue

• 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 50th Street

· Lexington Avenue from 48th Street to 57th Street (morning)

· Park Avenue from 48th Street to 52nd Street (evening)

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th, 2008

The following streets in the vicinity of the United Nations will continued to be closed to vehicular traffic:

• 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street. The tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48 Street will remain open passenger cars. Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access.

• 44th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 45th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 46th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue

• 49th Street from 3rd Avenue to Lexington Avenue

On Wednesday the FDR DRIVE will subject to intermittent closures:

• Southbound at 63rd Street

• Northbound at South Ferry

The following will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at approximately 5:00 a.m.:

• 42nd Street from the FDR Drive to 2nd Avenue

• The 42nd Street Exit and Entrance Ramps of the FDR Drive

• These areas will reopen each evening after the day’s session

Additional intermittent closures to vehicular traffic for Wednesday beginning at 7 a.m. include:

Park Avenue from 50th Street to 68th Street
For the duration of the General Assembly, drivers should expect closures in different areas of the city related to security and increased motorcade traffic. Traffic in the vicinity of hotels and the U.N. will be especially heavy. This information may be subject to change.

Monday, September 8, 2008

IBC News: MTA bigs still have 20% of recalled MetroCards and E-Z Passes

Former MTA honchos kept one in five lifetime passes that the agency recalled after a Daily News exposé - and their electronic freebies will be switched off within days.

Ex-Metropolitan Transit Authority big shots still have three free E-Z Passes, 10 MetroCards and at least 16 suburban rail passes more than two months after they were told to hand in a total of 143 perks, officials said.

"Our former board members have been very cooperative, and we expect to have all of the passes returned shortly," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Soffin refused to name those who failed to return the passes and said some of them may not know about the recall because of summer vacations.

He noted that nearly 80% of the passes were returned.

The agency plans to pull the plug on the E-Z Passes and MetroCards by the end of the week, meaning some of the ex-bosses may find themselves stuck at bridge toll gates or subway turnstiles, officials said.

The passes for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road are paper and cannot be electronically deactivated.

For decades, the MTA doled out the lifetime perks to board members and some of their spouses, which the MTA called a token of appreciation for unsalaried service.

A firestorm about the perks erupted in May when The News reported on the distribution of free E-Z Pass tags to nearly 60 past and present board members.

Former MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, a multimillionaire with an extensive classic car collection, had been granted eight E-ZPass tags.

After The News report, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told the MTA that the passes were illegal compensation because board members are supposed to serve for free.

The MTA disagreed but ultimately decided not to fight it out in court, calling the freebies a distraction from more pressing problems, like major gaps in its operating and capital budgets.

In a June letter, the MTA ordered dozens of pass holders, including ex-board members and their spouses and spouses of sitting board members, to return the freebies.

Former board member Warren Dolny on Friday reluctantly mailed his E-ZPass tag and MetroCard to the MTA.

"I'm disappointed," Dolny said, adding that he plans to file a lawsuit and wouldn't comment further on the advice of his lawyer. He previously said he worked hard for no pay, adding that at age 79 he was still working to pay the bills.

The MTA can't do much about the commuter rail passes because those passes are shown to conductors, not swiped or scanned like MetroCards and E-ZPass tags.

Current board members were allowed to keep their passes, but they are supposed to use them only on official MTA business.

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