Meredith Whitney is a financial analyst born in 1969 in Summit, New Jersey. After graduating from Brown University, she began her career with Oppenheimer Holdings in 1993, at the age of 24. Meredith worked with Oppenheimer until 1998 then went to Wachovia. She returned to Oppenheimer in 2004, and soon she would make a name for herself.
Meredith Whitney gained her prominence as an analyst because of a report released on October 31, 2007. She analyzed Citigroup and its financial outlook. Specifically, it said that they were downgrading the rating of Citigroup stock due to capital concerns. The report starts with four points about why Citigroup is overvalued. The last three are technical, focussing on recent acquisitions, total assets, and income growth. The first point sums up the whole report, saying:
“Our thesis is simple. We believe C will need to raise over $30bn in capital over the near term through either asset sales, a dividend cut, a capital raise, or a combination thereof. We believe such a catalyst will pressure the stock significantly lower and accordingly downgrade to SU from SP as of Oct 31.”
This report got a lot of attention from the media and other analysts. A shot was fired, and the echo rang long. She had called out Citigroup and their sizeable dividends.
Citigroup’s stock dipped as people looked closely at what Meredith had pointed out. Meredith Whitney was often called a prophet or an oracle for her prediction.
The stock crumbled heavily, down as much as 97%. The CEO, Charles Prince, resigned. As Meredith had predicted, the dividend was too much to maintain. The dividend had reached $21.60 per share in 2007. The new CEO lowered them almost immediately. In 2008, it went down even further to $11.20. In 2009, it was only 10 cents.
Meredith has taken her career up a notch from this. She started a firm in 2009 called Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, which did research on financial firms and the whole industry. This lasted until 2013, when Meredith started her own hedge fund named Kenbelle Capital LP. Then she moved on from this to being a manager for Arch Capital Group in 2015.
This rise got her accolades from many spots. The New York Post called her one of the “Most Powerful Women in New York 2009”. Fortune included her as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business”; #38 in 2010 and #48 in 2011.
Another random fun fact about Meredith Whitney is that she married a past wrestler and current commentator, John Layfield. Maybe she learned to suplex the business world that little bit harder.