Judge: Attorneys may join GM, FCA heads at racketeering suit meeting

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit — The judge who ordered the CEOs of General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to meet to resolve a racketeering lawsuit GM filed against FCA changed the meeting terms Saturday after GM appealed the order.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman on Tuesday instructed GM CEO Mary Barra and FCA CEO Mike Manley meet without legal counsel to reach a "sensible" resolution in an attempt to avoid a "waste of time and resources" in a likely lengthy litigation battle. He requested they report their results without counsel to him on Wednesday.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley

On Saturday, Borman amended his order, permitting attorneys to accompany Barra and Manley to the meeting and to the subsequent virtual report to the court via Zoom. That came after GM on Friday asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to vacate the original order. GM also requested the racketeering lawsuit be reassigned to a different judge.

GM on Saturday indicated the allowance for counsel does not change its appeal: “Our petition identifies a number of issues that are of great concern to us as we seek to hold FCA and others accountable for their racketeering crimes and direct harm to GM.”

GM CEO Mary Barra

GM filed its federal racketeering lawsuit last November, accusing Fiat Chrysler's late CEO Sergio Marchionne of orchestrating a bribery conspiracy to corrupt three rounds of bargaining with the United Auto Workers in a bid to harm and take over Detroit's largest automaker. GM says it lost "billions" from the arrangement, while Fiat Chrysler calls the allegations "meritless" and is seeking to dismiss the case.

The unusual move to require the two CEOs to meet, especially without legal representation, is “a clear case of judicial overstep," according to GM's petition.

"We reject the notion that seeking justice for the direct harm caused to GM is a 'waste of time,' a 'distraction,' or a 'diversion,'" the Detroit automaker said in a statement after filing its appeal. "Justice is worth pursuing in all its facets and any forums."

GM's actions suggest it is hopeful that its case will go to discovery, where FCA could be required hand over massive amounts of documents related to the case, including Marchionne's emails with UAW employees, communications concerning a merger with GM and documents concerning FCA's pending merger with French automaker Groupe PSA, maker of Peugeot and Citroën vehicles.

FCA reiterated a statement from Friday saying it "will continue to defend itself vigorously and pursue all available remedies in response to GM's groundless lawsuit. We stand ready to comply with Judge Borman's order."


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble