(‘76 Contributor) Well, well. Steve Rattner is now a spokesperson for the Obama re-election campaign and has specifically been speaking about financial matters. Rattner has appeared on both CNN and Fox. In a July 22 interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Rattner questioned Mitt Romney’s tax returns.
But as Rattner proclaims his expertise as “an equity guy” to Zakaria and condemns Romney for allegedly sleazy financial dealings, it’s an awkward fact that he is fresh off a pair of ugly settlements with the SEC and the New York AG’s office.
Here’s the background: In 2009, President Obama created his own Auto Task Force complete with a Car Czar to head up the auto bailout. The auto task force was full of Wall Street firepower and was led by Steve Rattner and Ron Bloom. Bloom was the head of collective bargaining for the United Steelworkers Union, and Rattner, former equity firm founder, had deep political ties. His wife, Maureen White, was the finance chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run, then went to work for Hillary at the US State Department. (See documentation in Tamara Darvish and Lillie Guyer’s book Outraged: How Detroit And The Wall Street Car Czars Killed The American Dream.)
Nobody on this task force had any automobile industry experience. Rattner in particular is person anyone could have expected to be in charge of a managed bankruptcy when his own personal financial situation has come under such intense adverse scrutiny.
As the New York Times reported in a story by Ruth Fremson on 8/23/10, “The Quadrangle Group, the investment firm founded by Rattner, agreed in April of 2010 to pay $12 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to win lucrative business from the New York State pension fund. The firm then issued an unusual public rebuke to its founder saying, ‘We wholly disavow the conduct engaged in by Steve Rattner.’” The story went on to state that Rattner struck a deal with New York’s then-Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, to pay $10 million to settle civil charges that he engaged in a kickback scheme involving the New York State pension fund.
Meanwhile as to Steve Rattner’s troubles with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Times reported in story by Peter Lattman on 12/20/10: “Quadrangle has acknowledged paying more than $1 million in fees to a political consultant, Henry Morris, in exchange for his help in landing a state investment contract.” Rattner and the S.E.C. reached a separate settlement in October of 2010 where Rattner agreed to pay $6.2million and accept a two-year ban from work in certain Wall Street businesses.
Although Rattner’s political ties run deep, I think we could all agree that he has no qualifications to pass judgment on anyone else’s financial ethics.
Yale King is a former GM Jeep Dealer in northern Colorado.