Was Obama Economic Advisor's Exit a Preemptive Strike?

There have been widespread reports about the probe into alleged payments by Rattner's firm to secure business with New York state's large public-pension fund. No charges have been brought, but last month New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg removed $5 billion of his private fortune from the private equity firm.

When the probe started heating up last summer, Rattner headed for the White House exit, saying he wanted to return to private life and his family. When the administration was asked about the reasons for his departure, they said Rattner had been brought in to negotiate the labor deals central to the rescue of the car companies.

In a written statement to reporters at the time, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that with the heavy lifting of the auto bailout over, Mr. Rattner had "decided to transition back to private life and his family in New York City."

"This is natural," one administration official told the Wall Street Journal at the time. "Steve is a great deal guy, and the deal time is over."

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