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When it was revealed in late January that John Thain spent $1.2 million renovating his office at Merrill Lynch in early 2008—back before the global financial meltdown was truly upon us—people were up in arms. Such a stupid move! So tone deaf! When it was reported yesterday that Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit was getting his office redecorated, like, now? Well, it's good thing the news broke when everyone was consumed with the mess over at AIG, huh?

Today the Journal follows up on Citi's office improvement project—which will cost anywhere from $3 to $10 million, depending on which estimate you choose to believe—and gives us Citi's rather creative excuse for the renovation work. It's "part of a previously announced plan to save $15 billion in expenses," explains a Citi spokesman. How does the company plan to save money by spending it redecorating the CEO's office suite? The bank says it's consolidating some staff on a single floor and then renting the other one out, which the Journal suggests could bring in $5 million a year.

Fair enough. But the bank doesn't explain why it needs to spend the money giving Pandit's office a makeover, or installing little extras like a Sub-Zero fridge. We're pretty sure he'd put up with a tiny cubicle right now, since it's not like any other bank is going to be offering him a job in the immediate future. But you can't dismiss the value of spontaneity!

The new floor plan features offices with glass walls, designed to create a more open atmosphere. It has common areas to encourage spontaneous meetings of executives, according to people familiar with the matter.

People familiar with the company's plans said that certain design elements have been nixed since the initial planning phase, including a Zen garden.

No Zen garden? Now that would have come in handy for Citi's senior management team.

Citi Defends Redesign, Plans a Reverse Split [WSJ]