Allegations that the Obama administration behaved thuggishly in putting together its Chrysler rescue package aren’t going away. Right now we’re at a kind of impasse, with conflicting accounts that need to be resolved before we will know exactly what happened.
- White & Case partner fingers Rattner. Tom Lauria, the head of White & Case’s bankruptcy practice, says that Obama’s Car Czar Steve Rattner threatened to turn the White House press corps loose against Perella Weinberg if the firm continued to oppose the administration’s plan. White & Case represented PW until the firm caved to White House demands. Now he continues to represent the remaining hold-out firms.
- Perella Weinberg doesn’t deny the threats. The firm at the centre of this controversy switched from opposing the administration’s plans to supporting them. It hasn’t said it wasn’t threatened by Rattner. Instead, it says that some kind of new appreciation of the economics of the deal are what made it change its position. It’s remained silent about the alleged threats, which may be a way of signalling that the threats really were made.
- The White House has issued a blanket denial. The stakes got far higher yesterday when the spokesman for the White House issued a complete denial, calling Lauria’s story “completely untrue.” This puts the credibility of the president on the line in a dramatic way. If any part of Lauria’s story holds up, Obama’s reputation for honesty will be tarnished.
We wouldn’t be surprised if intense pressure is now being brought to bear on Lauria to recant his original story. If anything, it’s surprising that Lauria has gone this far.
For now, the Obama administration stands accused by a prominent lawyer of behaving thuggishly and lying about it. Perella Weinberg’s silence on the threats seems to support this accusation. The ball is now in Obama’s court.