Retired UAW president Gettelfinger denies controlling offshore bank account

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Retired United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger on Tuesday denied receiving bribes funneled through a secret overseas bank accounts, one day after General Motors Co. leveled the allegations in federal court.

Gettelfinger, 76, of Louisville, Ky., who retired in 2010, released a statement through the UAW saying he read the allegations "with disgust and dismay" and faulted GM "for their malicious and utterly baseless attack against me and a supposed 'unnamed' member of my family."

Ron Gettelfinger

"I want to be unequivocally clear: I have never had control over any financial account in any foreign country, nor has any member of my family," Gettelfinger wrote. "Further, neither I nor any member of my family have ever received one cent from a foreign account like GM claimed.  Never."

On Monday, GM alleged that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives and top leaders of the UAW used secret offshore bank accounts to hide millions of dollars in bribes. A GM spokesman, James Cain, said, "we stand by our filing." 

GM made the new allegations while asking U.S. District Judge Paul Borman to reinstate the automaker's civil racketeering lawsuit against FCA. Borman dismissed the case last month that accused Fiat Chrysler's late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, of orchestrating a bribery conspiracy to corrupt three rounds of bargaining with the UAW. The conspiracy was designed to harm and take over Detroit's largest automaker, according to the lawsuit, which said GM lost "billions" of dollars.

The allegations were the first time Gettelfinger — who has been largely silent during the years-long scandal that has led to the convictions of 14 auto industry and UAW figures — had been mentioned in regards to the scandal.

In a court filing, GM's lawyers alleged Gettelfinger received bribes through foreign accounts he controlled, according to the lawsuit. The accounts “apparently exist in Panama and Switzerland in his name and the name of a family member." 

"GM drew a line in the sand and broke my silence when they made recklessly false and defamatory statements about me and my family," Gettelfinger said. "They knew these baseless allegations would draw major media attention. They were also aware, and presumably intended, that these false allegations would tarnish my reputation.

"The harm GM has brought to my name will be never be erased in some people’s eyes," he added. "I’m sure that won’t bother top GM management or their battery of attorneys or they would have been thorough in their so called 'investigation' before publicly smearing me and my family. I do realize that this is bigger than me. It’s about GM attempting to cause as much harm as they can to the UAW."

Gettelfinger wrote that he was sickened “by the corrupt actions of some of our former leadership" — including the conviction of one former president, the implication of a second and the convictions of two former vice presidents.

“You can bet this is personal for me. I may be retired but I am not dead,” he wrote. “GM has deep pockets for sure, but I will put my integrity up against theirs any day of the week. I retired after 45 1/2 years of work in the auto industry and in our union. I pride myself on honesty and integrity and I will not sit idly by while GM maliciously and falsely attacks me.”

Twitter: @robertsnellnews