Former Obama administration auto czar Steve Rattner, who is being sued by New York state for alleged influence peddling, has blasted Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for filing a "politically motivated" case against him - and Cuomo's office has fired right back, saying that Rattner sounded a different tune while under oath.
Cuomo announced Thursday that he was suing Rattner over allegedly paying kickbacks to win investment business for his firm, Quadrangle Group, from the New York state pension fund. In dual lawsuits, Cuomo is demanding that Rattner return $26 million, and wants to ban Rattner for life from the securities industry.
The news came the same day that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Rattner had agreed to pay $6.2 million to settle civil charges over the same influence-peddling scandal. He is also barred for two years from the securities business.
In a response to Cuomo's suits, Rattner denied wrongdoing and said he intended to clear his name "by defending myself vigorously against this politically motivated lawsuit."
"While settling with the SEC begins the process of putting this matter behind me," said Rattner, "I will not be bullied simply because the Attorney General's office prefers political considerations instead of a reasoned assessment of the facts."
Added Rattner, "This episode is the first time during 35 years in business that anyone has questioned my ethics or integrity."
Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger said that Rattner had taken a different tone when testifying. "Mr. Rattner now has a lot of say as he spins his friends in the press, but when he was questioned under oath about his pensions and dealing he was much less talkative, taking the Fifth and refusing to answer questions 68 different times."
"Anyone who reads the extensive facts laid out in our complaint," said Bamberger, "will understand that Rattner's claim that he did nothing wrong are ridiculous and belied by the fact that he is paying the $6 million today."
The SEC alleged that Rattner and Quadrangle Group provided political favors and kickbacks to win business from the New York's $125 billion pension fund. The SEC alleged that one of the favors was distributing DVDs of a low-budget film called "Chooch" produced by a pension fund official and his brothers.
David Rosenfeld, associate director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, said, "Rattner delivered special favors and conducted sham transactions that corrupted the [New York state] Retirement Fund's investment process."
Cuomo 's two lawsuits accuse Rattner of paying kickbacks to help Quadrangle land a $150 million investment from the state pension fund.