Steven Rattner - Biography
Steven Lawrence Rattner (born July 5, 1952) is an American financier who served as the lead auto advisor (popularly known as the "car czar") in the United States Treasury Department under President Barack Obama. Prior to his government service, he was a co-founder and managing principal of the Quadrangle Group, a global private equity firm specializing in the media and communications industries. He previously spent two decades as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Freres & Co., where he rose to Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chief Executive Officer. Rattner began his career as a reporter for The New York Times, principally as an economic correspondent in New York, Washington and London.
Rattner is currently chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, the investment firm that manages New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's personal and philanthropic assets. He continues to be deeply involved in public policy matters, including as a Contributing Writer for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, as the author of a monthly column for the Financial Times, and as the economic analyst for MSNBC's Morning Joe.
Education and background
Born in New York City, Rattner was raised in the suburb of Great Neck, where he attended local public schools. He received his A.B. with honors in economics from Brown University in 1974 and was awarded the Harvey Baker Fellowship. While at Brown, he served as editor-in-chief of The Brown Daily Herald in 1973.
Career in journalism
Upon graduating from Brown, Rattner was hired in Washington as news clerk to the legendary New York Times columnist James Reston. After a year, he was transferred to New York as a reporter, covering business and energy. In 1977, he was sent back to Washington, initially to cover the energy crisis. At age 27, he became The New York Times's chief Washington economic correspondent. He concluded his service to The New York Times with a stint in London as European economic correspondent.
Career in finance
At the end of 1982, Rattner left The New York Times to join Lehman Brothers as an associate. After Lehman was sold to American Express in 1984, he followed several colleagues including Eric Gleacher to Morgan Stanley. In 1989, after Morgan Stanley had gone public, he was recruited to Lazard as a general partner and founded the firm's media and communications group. He was intimately involved in completing various deals for companies such as Viacom and Comcast and rose to Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chief Executive in 1997.
In 2000, Rattner and three Lazard partners left the firm and founded the Quadrangle Group, which initially focused on investing a $1 billion media-focused private equity fund. Under Rattner's leadership, the firm grew to manage more than $6 billion. Among the firm's several businesses was the management of the personal and philanthropic assets of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
From his tenure with The New York Times in Washington, Rattner developed a lifelong interest in economic policy, which drew him to politics and public service. In the mid-1990's, he began to work actively on behalf of Democratic candidates, beginning with President Bill Clinton. While it was rumored that Rattner would join a Democratic administration, he did not do so until after the election of President Barack Obama.
In February 2009, with both General Motors and Chrysler on the brink of insolvency, Rattner was appointed Counselor to the United States Secretary of the Treasury and lead auto adviser. He quickly assembled a team that grew to 14 professionals to address this key element of the national economic crisis.
Reporting to both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, Rattner and his auto task force developed a plan to save both the two manufacturers and related suppliers and finance companies. The plan involved a total government investment of $82 billion in the sector, coupled with controlled bankruptcies for the two auto companies, as well as new management for both.
Rattner later wrote in his book Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Auto Rescue that the toughest decision for President Obama was whether to save Chrysler. There was no disagreement, he later wrote, about asking GM CEO Richard Wagoner to step aside.
By July 2009, both automakers had emerged from bankruptcy, had new management and were on their way to renewed profitability. At that time, Rattner left Washington and returned to private life in New York.
After leaving the government, Rattner wrote his New York Times best selling account of the successful rescue of the auto companies. Slate described his book as "unquestionably the best book so far about the Obama presidency."
He continued to speak out on auto-related matters as well as broader economic issues. Early in 2011, he began contributing a monthly column to the Financial Times on subjects ranging from the Greek crisis to the U.S. budget deficit. He also became the economic analyst for the MSNBC news show, Morning Joe. And in June 2011, he was named a contributing writer to The New York Times Op-Ed page, publishing a first column on how government policies drive up corn prices.
Attorney General investigation
In 2010, Rattner spent time fighting an investigation of his and Quadrangle's activities in relation to a "pay-to-play" scandal in New York State. In April 2010, Quadrangle attempted to distance themselves from Ratter.
In November 2010, Rattner settled U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges by paying $6.2 million in disgorgement and penalties without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.
The charges of the then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo were that two dozen investment advisors including Quadrangle allegedly paid fees to the Intermediary Hank Morris and did favors for pension officials in order to enrich themselves. Both Morris and Hevesi were sentenced to prison for their conduct involving the New York State Pension Fund’s investment operations.
Rattner spoke out vigorously in his own defense, including a memorable appearance on the Charlie Rose Show. Rattner said he was never a political supporter of Cuomo and accused Cuomo of actions "close to extortion," and said Cuomo "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."
On December 30, 2010, just a day before the end of Cuomo's term as Attorney General, Rattner and the New York Attorney General's office reached a settlement in which Rattner agreed to pay $10 million in restitution but no fines or penalties. In addition, he was not prohibited from continuing to insist on his innocence with respect to all charges. The non-financial terms of the settlement were the most favorable of those received by any of dozens of targets of the investigation.
Rattner has served as a board member or trustee of a number of public and philanthropic organizations, including the Educational Broadcasting Corporation as chairman, Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City as chairman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brown University, Brookings Institution and the New American Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Rattner is married to Maureen White, who served for five years as finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and is now the Senior Advisor on Humanitarian Issues to the Special Representative-Afghanistan and Pakistan for the U.S. Department of State. They have four grown children.
- StevenRattner.com Official Site
- 4 Top Lazard Freres Bankers Are Quitting to Open Firm. New York Times, March 1, 2000
- Eyeing More Turf. New York Times, February 17, 2006
- Quadrangle's Connections. Business Week, Nov. 1, 2004.
- Rattner Joins Panel to Fix Auto Industry. Wall Street Journal, Feb. 24, 2009.
- Obama Car Guru Steve Rattner. Time, April 20, 2009.
- Summons and Complaint. New York Attorney General, November 18, 2010
- Charlie Rose Interview with Steven Rattner. Charlie Rose Show, Nov. 22, 2010.