A lawyer as CFO? Bad idea, says Bove

March 20, 2009

CitigroupDid Citigroup do the right thing in installing a new CFO? Depends on who you ask.

Citi named Gary Crittenden to run a unit housing underperforming and toxic assets the bank wants to get rid of, and tapped Edward Kelly to replace him as chief financial officer. Kelly, known as Ned, was head of global banking, including Citi Private Bank, and joined in February 2008 from private equity firm Carlyle Group.

Veteran banking analyst Richard Bove called the move a “big error.”

“This is a terrible mistake. It is the first that Vikran Pandit, CEO, has made in my judgment, but it is a big error,” Bove, an analyst at Rochdale Research wrote in a note to clients.

Bove’s argument: Crittenden, who was formerly CFO of American Express, was qualified for the job, while Kelly, a lawyer, “has a superb reputation but there is nothing in his background that suggests that he is qualified for this job.”

Not everyone agreed with Bove’s assessment.

Michael Holland, a money manager at Holland & Co, said the appointments are “the first good news we’ve had in a long time from Citigroup.”

“Crittenden has earned the confidence of the financial community, and Kelly is considered a very solid, competent citizen. It is a welcome relief,” Holland said.

(Photo: REUTERS/John Gress)

6 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Curious that we should consider a lawyer as unfit to run a financial services company’s division. We have nearly 535 lawyers running the USA and insisting that they have a clue on how to run an economy.

In fact, not only do those 535 “lawyers” stoke their bragging rights on law studies, but, the vast majority of them also gladly announce their having attended 2nd and 3rd tier schools to accomplish their studies.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive


Representative Ron Paul of Texas is a doctor of OB/Gyn.

He also has the most useful advice on solving this problem.

Remove the source of the bubbles, then step out of the way and let private citizens rebuild the country as they always have after government destroys parts of it.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

You ever listen to a recent Congressional hearing with those mostly “lawyers” questioning financial people. It’s an utter joke. Even with their lawyerly staffs they belie their utter ignorance,

After all, they are only lawyers. Playing with words for a living doesn’t mean you actually get anything done. And in business that’s the objective every single day.

Posted by RW | Report as abusive


Posted by Sebastian | Report as abusive

A well seasoned CFO of a law school once said to me, “When it comes to numbers, lawyers are idiots. If they were smart about numbers, they wouldn’t be lawyers.”

The fact that they now have appointed a lawyer as CFO tells me that they have some significant legal issues in their future.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Very insightful. It is odd how many lawyers are running the country and yet it seems strange to fully trust a lawyer with the country.


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