US BANK Citigroup has avoided a pay row with regulators with the sale of its Phibro commodities trading unit, where star performer Andrew Hall works. <br /><br />Hall, who earned a $98m (£62m) bonus last year, is on course for a performance-related award of more than $100m this year, sparking anger among US taxpayers, who financed the $45bn bailout of the bank.<br /><br />But Citi will avoid accusations that it is using public money to hand out excessive pay packets, after announcing the sale of Phibro to Occidental Petroleum for around $250m.<br /><br />Hall was due to pick up a bonus of more than $100m after another stellar year for Phibro, which has delivered average annual profits of $371m to the struggling banking group over the past five years.<br /><br />But the sale will remove Hall’s bonus from a long list of problems facing the bank.<br /><br />Citigroup said yesterday that the motivation for the sale was purely to fit in with chief executive Vikram Pandit’s efforts to shed non-core units, saying that sale was “consistent with Citi’s core strategy of a client-centred business model”.<br /><br />But London-born Hall is understood to have advocated the sale, after abandoning a plan which would have seen him leading a management buyout of Phibro. <br /><br />Phibro’s management team, headed by Hall, and its employees will remain with the company after closing the deal.<br /><br />The bank was on a collision course with President Obama’s pay tsar Kenneth Feinberg over Hall’s expected payout.<br /><br />Feinberg is currently reviewing the remuneration plans of seven firms deemed to have been in receipt of “exceptional” state support and is due to reveal his plans for pay structures at the institutions within days.<br /><br />However, Feinberg’s ability to intervene in Hall’s pay could be restricted by the fact that he is contractually entitled to the award under remuneration policies drawn up before the government deadline set for the pay tsar’s jurisdiction.<br /><br />Even Pandit conceded that Hall’s likely bonus payout seemed excessive during a speech to bankers in New York last month.<br /><br /><strong>ANDREW HALL<br />HEAD OF PHIBRO</strong><br />Andrew Hall, a US citizen born in the UK, has been the focus of much high-profile comment over an expected bonus of more than $100m this year, becoming the poster child for excessive Wall Street wages as Americans voiced their anger at the banking community’s role in the financial crisis.<br /><br />Hall took home more than $98m in 2008 after correctly predicting that the price of oil would rise to more than $147 a barrel. <br /><br />The trader, who heads Citigroup’s oil and gas trading unit Phibro, is in line for an even bigger payout this year, adding to a personal fortune that Hall has used, among other pursuits, to add to his collection of modern art.<br /><br />Oxford-educated Hall, 58, is a keen modern art enthusiast and owns works by names such as Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel and Bruce Nauman, many of which hang in his 1000-year-old castle near Hamburg, Germany called Schloss Dernberg.<br /><br />The trader, famed for his eagle eye for a deal, is known to head out of the office in the afternoon to go rowing or practice callisthenics.<br /><br />The chemistry graduate joined energy giant BP as a trader in its US arm, from where he was snapped up by Phibro, rising to run the Citigroup division by 1987.<br /><br />He is understood to have got behind the banking group’s decision to sell off Phibro after giving up on a plan to lead a buyout of the company.<br /><br />Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit is understood to be reluctant to part with his star trader. However, one benefit is the sale of Phibro will avoid a potentially protracted row with USregulators over his pay.