Responding to the controversy over compensation at financial companies, Vikram Pandit, the chief executive of Citigroup Inc., said Friday that a tax on bonuses in the financial industry would make it hard to keep workers.

In a memo to employees, he also said the tax, which could be as much as 90% if the House version passed, would affect "countless" people who would find it difficult to repay their bonuses.

Pandit said that not all workers in the financial services field are to blame for the current economic morass.

Similarly, in a letter Friday to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, James Lockhart, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, wrote that retention bonuses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "are not a reward for the past."

"We run a great risk of … employees deciding this is the last straw and walking away," Lockhart wrote.

"The loss of key personnel would be devastating to the companies and to the government's efforts to stabilize the housing system."

Also Friday, Citi promoted Edward Kelley, its global banking chief, to chief financial officer. He succeeded Gary Crittenden, who was named the chairman of Citi Holdings, the entity created in January for its noncore businesses.

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