In the new book Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, Ron Suskind reports that President Obama ordered Treasury Secretary Geithner to consider dissolving Citigroup, while Secretary Geithner more or less ignored the order.
I haven't yet seen the books, but there's no mention or consideration in the press coverage of the property rights of Citi's shareholders.
If the account is true, it's hard to know which is scarier — that cabinet members feel free to disregard orders from the president, that we have a president who would issue such an apparently cavalier order, or that the only one standing between President Obama and the economy is Timothy Geithner. Maybe Mr. Geithner learned from his experience working with Henry Paulson in the George W. Bush administration, where Mr. Paulson seemed to have a lot of latitude to do whatever he wanted. If Citi management wants to know what happened, they can always check with Citi Vice Chairman Peter Orszag, who was President Obama's budget director at the time and who, as a top economic policy official, might have been in the loop.