Rattner in Limbo

“Steve was not going to have a formal role with the company,” said a source familiar with Quadrangle. “It was not going to happen. One of the outcomes of this arrangement is, it does make it possible for the mayor to get Steve involved in a more direct way.”

Indeed, a person familiar with the mayor’s thinking confirmed that Mr. Rattner is working on the upcoming transition, moving the team that he helped put together for Mr. Bloomberg into an independent firm that works only on managing his money and his foundation’s. Anything beyond that hasn’t been settled yet, the source said, but that “it’s certainly true he’s not moving away from Steve.”

What if, at long last, there are real stirrings from investigators? “I don’t see that anything that’s happening is going to come between them, in my personal opinion,” said Thomas H. Lee, the private-equity pioneer. Spokespeople for the New York State attorney general’s office and the S.E.C. wouldn’t comment, and a call to the U.S. attorney general’s office wasn’t returned. Neither Mr. Rattner nor his old firm has been charged with wrongdoing.

Friends of his like to point out that the giant private-equity firm Carlyle Group, which was essentially accused of paying a much bigger fee to Mr. Morris, about $10 million, was allowed to settle with Mr. Cuomo last May for $20 million. And that firm’s decorated chief, David M. Rubenstein, still gets to speak at Davos and sit on the boards of the Kennedy Center and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Then again, Mr. Rattner was said to be personally involved with Mr. Morris and the pension-fund money.

For now, he wafts in limbo. “His greatest strength always has been a rock-hard realism. He knows that a lot of stuff happens and you deal with it,” Mr. Goldberger said. “He’s not one to say, ‘I’m taking my ball and going home! Fuck you all.’”

“Do I know how bad it is inside his head? No, I don’t,” the anonymous friend said, “Am I convinced personally that it’s bad? Yes.”

mabelson@observer.com