Friends in Low Places

by David Kahane

One of the reasons I read the New York Times every day — in addition to the high-quality sportswriting and former Enron adviser Paul Krugman’s brilliant, insightful columns — is that the Gray Lady knows how to take care of her own. Like, say, former Timesman turned moneyman turned auto macher turned Morning Joe regular Steven Rattner, who got this mention in a Times in a piece about the Emperor Hussein’s fundraising troubles:

Some traditional heavy hitters in Democratic Wall Street fund-raising have stepped out of the game. They include Maureen White and her husband, Steven L. Rattner, a founder of the Quadrangle Group, whose Fifth Avenue living room was a critical conduit between Wall Street and Democratic candidates in the years before Mr. Rattner joined the Obama administration to help restructure the auto industry. The couple did not resume their old role after Mr. Rattner left government, and he was caught up last year in an investigation into kickbacks to New York’s state pension fund.

“Caught up in an investigation into kickbacks to New York’s state pension fund.” That’s one way to put it! Here’s another, courtesy of the New York State Attorney General’s office when current governor Andrew Cuomo was AG:

NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 30, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an agreement with Steven Rattner, former founding principal of private equity firm Quadrangle Group, LLC (“Quadrangle”) in the Attorney General’s public pension fund investigation.

Mr. Rattner will pay $10,000,000 in restitution to the State of New York and be banned from appearing in any capacity before any public pension fund within the State of New York for five years. The agreement today will end the two lawsuits previously filed against Mr. Rattner by the Attorney General’s Office in New York State Supreme Court relating to the circumstances surrounding $150 million in investments in Quadrangle from the New York State Common Retirement Fund (“CRF”).

In a statement issued in conjunction with today’s agreement, Mr. Rattner stated: “I am pleased to have reached a settlement with the New York Attorney General’s Office, which allows me to put this matter behind me. I apologize if during the course of this process there is anything I did that may have made reaching this agreement more difficult. I respect the work of the Attorney General and his staff to ensure that the New York State Common Retirement Fund operates properly and in the best interests of New Yorkers.”

With today’s agreement, Cuomo’s investigation has secured agreements with nineteen firms and five individuals, garnering over $170 million for New York and the pension fund. The investigation has led to eight guilty pleas, including pleas by former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, his chief political consultant, and his Chief Investment Officer.

Obviously, the Times’s morgue is on the fritz, or else reporter Nicholas Confessore might have found a better phrase than “caught up in.” Yes, there’s more:

Washington, D.C., Nov. 18, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged former Quadrangle Group principal Steven Rattner with participating in a widespread kickback scheme to obtain investments from New York’s largest pension fund.

The SEC alleges that Rattner secured investments for Quadrangle from the New York State Common Retirement Fund after he arranged for a firm affiliate to distribute the DVD of a low-budget film produced by the Retirement Fund’s chief investment officer and his brothers. Rattner then caused Quadrangle to retain Henry Morris – the top political advisor and chief fundraiser for former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi – as a “placement agent” and pay him more than $1 million in sham fees even though Rattner was already dealing directly with then-New York State Deputy Comptroller David Loglisci and did not need an introduction to the Retirement Fund.

The SEC alleges that after receiving pressure from Morris, Rattner also arranged a $50,000 contribution to Hevesi’s re-election campaign. Just a month later, Loglisci increased the Retirement Fund’s investment with Quadrangle from $100 million to $150 million. As a result of the $150 million investment with Quadrangle, the Retirement Fund paid management fees to a Quadrangle subsidiary. By virtue of his partnership interest in Quadrangle and its affiliates, Rattner’s personal share of these fees totals approximately $3 million.

Rattner agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $6.2 million and consenting to a bar from associating with any investment adviser or broker-dealer for at least two years.

Of course, it sure helps when you’re friends with the boss

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