A former steelworkers union official is taking over the White House's automotive task force as the government shifts gears in its revamping of General Motors and Chrysler.
Steven Rattner, who led the Obama administration's work to restructure General Motors and Chrysler Group LLC, announced his departure Monday after guiding the task force since it began in February.
Rattner will be replaced by Ron Bloom, a former investment banker and adviser to the United Steelworkers union, who has played a prominent role on the task force for months. The panel includes representatives of the Cabinet and economic advisers.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Bloom will help the government transition from day-to-day restructuring to "protecting the substantial investment the American taxpayers have made in GM, Chrysler and GMAC," the financing arm for the auto companies.
Rattner and Bloom were key advisers to Geithner as the government pushed GM and Chrysler through quick bankruptcies, helping the auto giants shed unsustainable debt levels, large health care obligations and uncompetitive wage levels.
GM received about $50 billion in loans and bankruptcy financing while Chrysler got about $15.5 billion in federal aid. Under the new structures, the U.S. government will own about 61% of General Motors and 8% of Chrysler.
The Treasury Department said Rattner had decided to return to private life and his family in New York City. Geithner credited Rattner for his work to strengthen the two companies. "I hope that he takes another opportunity to bring his unique skills to government service in the future," Geithner said.
GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said in a statement that Rattner's "expertise was a key contributor toward a new GM emerging in record time."
Rattner's government service was clouded by an influence peddling investigation back in New York. Authorities have said Rattner, a Wall Street financier who co-founded the Quadrangle Group LLC in 2000, was unlikely to face charges in the probe of a giant state pension fund that provides retirement benefits for more than 1 million government employees.
A person familiar with the state attorney general's investigation said it had intensified in recent weeks and investigators had sought more information about Quadrangle's role in the pension fund. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the investigation. Alex Detrick, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, declined comment.
Rattner had hinted that changes were coming, telling reporters last week that the "task force will inevitably get smaller as this becomes more of a monitoring function."
Bloom, who advised union workers as the steel industry downsized, will be tasked with helping the government shift from a restructuring negotiator to the hands-off owner of General Motors and stakeholder in Chrysler's new alliance with Italian automaker Fiat.
Bloom told the Senate Banking Committee last month that the government was a "reluctant shareholder" and would leave day-to-day decisions to the companies' executives and board of directors. But he said the government's role was necessary to prevent the large companies from liquidating and shedding tens of thousands of jobs during an economic downturn.
"As the president made clear, we will manage this investment commercially and exit our position as quickly as is practical," Bloom said.