The week after Wells Fargo & Co. announced the closing of its storefront subprime lending unit, Citigroup's chief executive delivered an impassioned defense of keeping alive his similar operation, CitiFinancial.

"In order to be successful at this business, what is really important is that you have scale and that you are diversified, and we've got that," Citi CEO Vikram Pandit said on the company's second-quarter earnings call, when an analyst asked why the two banking companies had arrived at contrary stances. "So in a very different way, we think this is an extremely valuable business from a business perspective but, most importantly, from an American citizen perspective — my God, you don't want to shut this down; you want to keep it growing!"

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