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Rattner book needs more ‘Chooch,’ less Chrysler

If Steve Rattner’s ‘Overhaul’ isn’t the first of two books, then he’s leaving a giant hole in the record.

I just received my copy of  “Overhaul,”  the book in which Steve Rattner spends 315 pages on car czar-dom and just five paragraphs on the pay-to-play scandal that nearly destroyed his former firm.

No new info, except that he fingers Larry Summers as the leaker of news that Rattner had accepted the Obama Administration’s offer:

Amid the media and stakeholder frenzy, I shouldn’t have been surprised that word of my acceptance on January 7 leaked almost immediately, though I’d hoped to keep the news confidential until I could inform my partners and our investors. But within a few hours, Senator Chuck Schumer called to congratulate me. How had he heard so quickly? “From Larry!”

Less than twenty-four hours later, Jake Tapper of ABC News posted a report on his website. For me, this was a potential disaster. My eighty-five quadrangle colleagues had just been blindsided, not to mention more than one hundred investors in our private-equity funds, whom I had hoped to inform of my departure. Dismayed, I called Larry who — to my amusement — wondered aloud whether the problem had arisen “from your end or our end.”

In an interview yesterday with the NY Times’ Peter Lattman, Rattner gave two explanations for the lack of pay-to-play discussion: (1) It would be improper to write about an ongoing investigation; and (2) His publishers wanted more about Obama/autos and less about personal issues.

I obviously can’t argue the second point, but the first one is really passing the buck. Rattner has had plenty of opportunities to put this mess behind him, but has steadfastly refused to take any public accountability (virtually holding Quadrangle Group hostage for much of the process). Blaming an ongoing investigation is like me saying the following about my high cholesterol: “You know I’d love to get healthier, but there’s all this steak that needs to be eaten.”

Remember, Rattner was no bit player in the New York pension scandal. He was the primary actor on behalf of Quadrangle Group, which agreed to pay $12 million to settle civil charges brought by the SEC and New York Attorney General’s office. Specifically, he allegedly compelled a Quadrangle portfolio company to distribute a low-rent film called “Chooch,” which was produced by the brother of a state pension official (quid pro quo for a pension fund investment in Quadrangle).

Suffice to say, “Chooch” is not listed in the Overhaul index. Nor are any of Rattner’s former Quadrangle partners listed in the acknowledgements, although names like Henry Kravis, David Rubenstein and Andrew Ross Sorkin (?!) pop up.

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