It's every bank's worst media nightmare, and it happened to the biggest bank in the biggest media market.

WNBC-TV in New York City aired an "exclusive report" Nov. 12 speculating that Citicorp could be closed by regulators when new capital requirements take effect Dec. 19.

The evening news report spot-lighted Christopher Whalen, a former examiner who publishes a newsletter with a penchant for seeing Citicorp as the next Bank of New England. On the broadcast, Mr. Whelan said regulators "are taking a good hard look" at Citi's assets and would close the company if they "are going to follow what the law says."

"Whalen has made dire predictions" before that were "absolutely wrong," the TV reporter told her audience, but the disclaimer was anticlimactic.

Citicorp said some branches-mostly those with lots of elderly customers - experienced unusually high withdrawals after the broadcast. "It was a scary episode," said John Morris, a bank spokesman.

Mr. Morris wrote a letter to the station, objecting to its failure to investigate Mr. Whelan's credentials. Two credit rating agencies and a regulator also expressed their displeasure to the station, Mr. Morris said.

Mr. Whelan is unrepentant. "There's more coming," he said. "I've already shot a lot of tape with another network." He said it would air before Dec. 19.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.