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Citigroup shuns digital webcast for its shareholder meeting

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[April 17, 2014]  By David Henry

NEW YORK (Reuters)  Citigroup Inc <C.N>, which aspires "to become the world's digital bank", will not webcast its annual meeting next week in St. Louis.

Of the top six U.S. banks, only Citigroup and Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N> do not allow investors to listen to live audio from their annual meetings.

Analyst Mike Mayo told Reuters on Wednesday that Citigroup's practice is "ludicrous." He said the bank needs to explain what it has learned since March, when the Federal Reserve rejected Citigroup's plan to boost dividends and buy back more shares, and investors should not have to fly to St. Louis to hear it.

On Citigroup's conference call with investors on Monday, Mayo asked CEO Mike Corbat if the annual meeting would be webcast. Corbat said it would not be and provided no further comment.

A Citigroup spokesman declined to comment.

JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>, Bank of American Corp <BAC.N>, Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N>, and Morgan Stanley <MS.N> make their meetings available through the Internet or telephone lines.

Analysts say Wells Fargo, which does not provide a webcast, has less to explain to investors than the others because it is less complex and does not have a big investment banking business.

To be sure, Citigroup allows journalists to come to its shareholder meetings and report potentially stock-moving information, such as at its 2012 meeting in Dallas when the company disclosed that a majority of stockholders had voted against the company's executive pay practices.

Corbat, in his annual letter to shareholders in March, repeated his earlier pledge that the company will take advantage of digital connections between cities around the world. He said Citigroup has an "ambitious digital agenda for our consumer and institutional businesses."

(Reporting by David Henry; editing by Ken Wills)

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