Rattner claims innocence in NY kickback case

2010-11-23 06:58

New York – Former White House auto industry adviser Steven Rattner, who has been embroiled in an influence peddling scandal for nearly two years, said in an interview Monday that he hasn’t done anything wrong and is being improperly persecuted by Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general and governor-elect.

In a taped interview with Charlie Rose broadcast Monday night, Rattner said Cuomo’s decision to sue him last week for $26 million (about R182.9 million)was “close to extortion”.

Rattner said: “He has basically threatened me all along the way that if I don’t do what he wants me to do, he will prosecute me to the ends of the earth.”

Rattner said that, among other things, Cuomo threatened to have his lawyers brought up on disciplinary charges for raising too many questions about “irregularities” in the way the attorney general’s office was handling the case.

“This is not the kind of behaviour I think we want out of an attorney-general or a governor,” he said.

Rattner’s talk with Rose was his most vigorous defence yet against allegations that he paid kickbacks to help his former private equity firm, the Quadrangle Group, land a $150 million investment contract with New York’s giant government pension fund in 2005.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and Cuomo have said in civil filings that Quadrangle successfully curried favour with corrupt state officials by paying $1 million in “sham” fees to the state comptroller’s top political consultant.

That aide, Henry Morris, pleaded guilty yesterday to a securities fraud charge. They also said Rattner directed subordinates to give a DVD distribution deal to a low-budget film produced by the brother of a key pension fund official.

Rattner settled an SEC lawsuit for $6.2 million, but he has squared off with Cuomo, saying he wouldn’t be “bullied” into accepting the attorney general’s proposed fine. Cuomo has also sought to have Rattner barred for life from the securities industry.

A Cuomo spokesperson did not return a phone message from The Associated Press yesterday. In a statement last week, Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger said anyone familiar with the facts of the case “will understand that Rattner’s claims that he did nothing wrong are ridiculous”.

In his interview with Rose, Rattner said that when Quadrangle hired Morris, it wasn’t seeking any undue influence, and thought it was getting “an honest man” with a few good connections who could help the company raise money.

Rattner acknowledged that he did a courtesy for the pension fund’s chief investment officer, David Loglisci, by introducing his brother, a film producer, to executives at a movie distribution company Quadrangle controlled.

But Rattner denied that he pulled strings to make sure the company ultimately gave a deal to the Loglisci family’s movie, a screwball comedy called Chooch.

“Did I ever tell that company to distribute this DVD or insist that they distribute it in any way, shape or form? No. They made that decision entirely alone,” Rattner said.

E-mails released in court papers show that officials at the film company, GT Brands, were initially sour on the film’s prospects and told Rattner they would drop it unless he said otherwise. He asked them to “dance along,” and treat Loglisci with kid gloves, and the company ultimately agreed to distribute the movie for a percentage of its profits.

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