Rattner named in SEC probe of NY kickbacks: report

NEW YORK Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:41pm EDT

Steve Rattner, managing principal, Quadrangle, speaks at the Reuters Global Hedge Fund and Private Equity Summit in New York April 11, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Steve Rattner, managing principal, Quadrangle, speaks at the Reuters Global Hedge Fund and Private Equity Summit in New York April 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Steven Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration's auto task force, was one of the investment-firm executives involved with payments now under scrutiny in a state and federal investigation into an alleged kickback scheme at New York state's pension fund, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A "senior executive" of Rattner's firm, Quadrangle Group, identified in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint against two former New York political officials and others, is Rattner himself, the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The "senior executive" met with a politically connected consultant about a finder's fee, then the firm agreed to pay what became a $1.1 million fee after receiving an investment from the state pension fund, the complaint said, according to the Journal report, published online on Thursday.

Neither Rattner nor Quadrangle has been accused of any wrongdoing, the Journal reported.

A representative for Quadrangle declined comment.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury also declined comment, but when asked whether the Obama administration knew of Rattner's role in the investigation, said: "During the transition Mr Rattner made us aware of the pending investigation."

The auto task force headed by Rattner operates under the Treasury.

Sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters earlier this week that several investment firms are being scrutinized over whether they made improper payments to intermediaries to gain business from New York state's pension fund.

The inquiry by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the SEC includes The Carlyle Group CYL.UL, one of the world's biggest private equity firms, the sources said.

Last month, Henry Morris, the former New York state comptroller's top fund-raiser, and David Loglisci, the state's pension investment chief, were charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks from money manager firms.

The main legal issue for the investment firms turns on whether they knew, or should have known, that fees they paid to certain entities for access to the New York fund were legitimate or were improper kickbacks, and whether they were properly disclosed, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

Rattner, who co-founded Quadrangle in 2000, left the firm earlier this year to lead the government's effort to restructure struggling U.S. car makers General Motors Corp (GM.N) and Chrysler Corp.

(Reporting by Anupreeta Das)