- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Obama administration’s auto task force leader is stepping down in the wake of General Motors and Chrysler having exited bankruptcy protection under government-backed rescue plans, officials said Monday.

Steven Rattner, co-founder of a private equity group, will be replaced by task force member Ron Bloom, a former investment banker who joined the steelworkers labor union to help restructure the steel industry.

“With the emergence of both General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy, we enter a new phase of the government’s unprecedented and temporary involvement in the automotive industry,” said Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

Mr. Rattner has decided to return to private life and his family in New York City, the secretary said.

“We are extremely grateful to Steve for his efforts in helping to strengthen GM and Chrysler, recapitalize GMAC, and support the American auto industry,” Mr. Geithner said. “I hope that he takes another opportunity to bring his unique skills to government service in the future.”

Mr. Rattner has received widespread kudos for managing the complex restructuring of the two Detroit auto giants, but he faces an investigation of an influence-peddling scandal involving a large New York pension fund that provides retirement benefits for more than 1 million government employees.

He is unlikely to be charged in the investigation, according to an Associated Press report that cited unnamed sources.

Mr. Bloom will assume leadership of the task force as the government transitions away from day-to-day restructuring duties to a more general oversight role of the automakers, Mr. Geithner said.

“GM and Chrysler have achieved a quick restructuring, and the economy avoided the devastation that would have accompanied their liquidation,” the secretary said. “Now, with day-to-day management of these companies in the hands of the private sector, the American taxpayers have a better chance of recouping their investment in these companies.”

Last week, GM transferred its main assets to a new government-financed company under a plan supported by the administration and the Canadian government. The federal government provided about $50 billion in financing and received an almost 61 percent stake in the new firm called General Motors Co.

The plan is similar to the one used to rescue Chrysler, which came out of bankruptcy last month.

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