Steve Rattner Steps Down, What Next?

Wow, that was fast. Steve Rattner today stepped down as President Obama’s auto czar, less than five months after taking the job, and less than five days after General Motors emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Geithner said that Rattner would “transition back to private life,” and that he’d be succeeded by existing auto task force member Ron Bloom.

Just what that private life might entail, however, is a giant question mark. Rattner almost certainly will not return to Quadrangle Group, the private equity and asset management firm he co-founded, given that his original departure doubled as a broken promise to both his partners and his investors (he told folks last year that he’d only leave if Hillary Clinton was elected, but that he had no interest in a role with Obama).

There also is the distinct possibility that Rattner could get further ensnared in the pension kickback mess, in which he’s already been tangentially implicated. Quadrangle has not yet reached a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and there also is talk that Lev Dassin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and California AG Jerry Brown are itching to wade into the scandalous waters. Not saying to expect an indictment, but something more damaging than a slap on the wrist…

More on this to come, for sure.

Update: My Reuters colleague Joan Gralla is reporting that the NY AG’s probe of Rattner “intensified” in recent weeks. According to a source: “I think it’s more than likely that he [Rattner] will have to work out some kind of civil disposition.”