GM says Fiat Chrysler not cooperating in racketeering suit

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court asking a judge to make Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV hand over evidence related to a racketeering case against the Italian American automaker.

GM argues in the court filing that Fiat Chrysler has refused to participate in the discovery phase of the federal civil racketeering lawsuit filed by GM. The filing essentially demands documents related to the case.

The motion is "standard practice," according to Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

"This isn't full-scale discovery yet," Henning said. "That will come probably after Fiat Chrysler files a motion to dismiss. This is the next step in the case. This is pretty standard. It's nothing outlandish."

The delay could allow third-parties to dispose of evidence, GM argues. 

"FCA’s refusal to engage in any discovery until its motion to dismiss is ruled upon raises the real risk that important evidence about the RICO enterprise they led and the specific instances of bribery, fraud and other wrongdoing that FCA executives have already admitted may be lost," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement. "Proceeding with discovery now is necessary to help ensure the preservation and production of irrefutably relevant evidence."

Fiat Chrysler officials did not immediately respond to Detroit News request for comment.

GM in November filed the lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, alleging its late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, had orchestrated a multimillion-dollar racketeering conspiracy that corrupted three rounds of bargaining with the United Auto Workers union and harmed GM.

GM's suit alleges that Fiat Chrysler's late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, orchestrated a multimillion-dollar racketeering conspiracy that corrupted three rounds of bargaining with the UAW.

GM says it suffered "massive monetary damage" as a result of the conspiracy that it says included bribing UAW officials to provide its rival sweeter labor agreements such as hiring more lower-paid employees.

Fiat Chrysler has called the allegations "meritless" and has yet to file a response to the lawsuit. The company's deadline to respond is Jan. 24.

The lawsuit seeks to put a price tag on damage related to crimes committed by Fiat Chrysler executives who have been convicted in federal court during an approximately five-year-long corruption crackdown in federal court.

The probe has secured 11 convictions, produced charges against 13 and implicated Marchionne, former UAW President Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, Jones' predecessor atop the union.

The racketeering charges require GM to prove it has been financially harmed by the bribery scheme — a feat experts have said will be a challenge.

Henning said GM's Friday filing would likely be followed by a motion to dismiss the case by Fiat Chrysler.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

Detroit News staff writers Breana Noble and Kalea Hall contributed