Sunday, May 3, 2009

White House Claims Head Of White & Case Restructuring Group Lied

In a story becoming more bizarre by the minute, ABCNews has now picked up on the Perella Weinberg scent with some new twists. According to ABC, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton claims that the allegations by Tom Lauria, global head of the Financial Restructuring and Insolvency at White & Case are "completely untrue". As Zero Hedge already disclosed, Perella Weinberg was previously a client of White & Case, however, the firm run by former head of M&A at Morgan Stanley Joe Perella (where incidentally Steve Rattner was head of the Communications group until 1989), decided to fire the law firm after developments unknown, and in a radio show, Tom Lauria had this to say about the White House's alleged strongarming tactics:
"One of my clients was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight...That was Perella Weinberg."
The White House has now stepped in and claims that this story is patently false:
"The charge is completely untrue," said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, "and there's obviously no evidence to suggest that this happened in any way."
What is more strange is that now Perella Weinberg itself is claiming Lauria's story misrepresented the facts:
"A Perella Weinberg Partners spokesperson told ABC News on Sunday that “The firm denies Mr. Lauria’s account of events.” The spokesperson would not elaborate."
What is strangest is that Lauria would stake his career and reputation on the line by stating on the record the facts previously disclosed. As such his downside is much bigger than that of Mr. Burton or of the PW's spokesperson, as they effectively side with the Obama's side of the story.

Granted there could be even more to this story than meets the eye, thanks to some keen observations by our friends at Finem Respice.

Ultimately, this will be a very interesting development, because without factual backing, Tom Lauria's career is now on the line, as he has taken on not just the administration but his very own, former client. The bottom line here is that someone is lying, and if any further facts emerge to substantiate White & Case's position, it could prove to be a massive PR blow to both the White House and the FDIC's advisor, Perella Weinberg.

The full statement by Perella Weinberg is presented below:

Suggestions have been made that the Perella Weinberg Partners Xerion Fund changed its stance on the Chrysler restructuring due to pressure from White House officials. This is incorrect. The decision to accept and support the proposed deal was made by the Xerion Fund after reflecting carefully on the statement of the President when announcing Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing. In considering the President’s words and exercising our best investment judgment, we concluded that the risks of potentially severe capital loss that could arise from fighting this in bankruptcy court far outweighed any realistic potential upside.

We have a very specific mandate from our investors, and that is to carefully weigh investment risks and rewards. It is not our investment mandate to pursue political or risky legal campaigns with our investors’ money. This was our assessment of investment risk and reward, nothing else.

While we did and still do believe that the lenders would be justified in pressing their objections under conventional bankruptcy law principles, we believe a settlement would now be in the best interests of all parties in the context of avoiding a drawn out contested bankruptcy litigation proceeding, and we encourage our colleagues in the loan syndicate to pursue this immediately.”

Lastly, should it be at all odd, that Mr. Arbess, fund manager of Perella Weinberg's Xerion, which is at the heart of this whole Chrysler fiasco, was not only a Partner, but also Head of Global Privatization at ... White & Case.

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