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Convicted FCA exec's lawyer rips GM for 'scurrilous' bribery allegations

Robert Snell Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit — Allegations that convicted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Vice President Alphons Iacobelli controlled secret offshore bank accounts used to bribe United Auto Workers are baseless and "scurrilous," his lawyer said Saturday.

In a federal court filing, defense lawyer Michael Nedelman faulted General Motors Co.'s legal team for leveling the unproven allegations. He likened their conduct to the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy claiming to have a list of government employees who belonged to the Communist party in the 1950s.

Alphons Iacobelli

Nedelman responded five days after GM claimed rival FCA used secret offshore bank accounts to hide millions of dollars in bribes. GM leveled the new allegations while asking U.S. District Judge Paul Borman to reinstate the automaker's civil racketeering lawsuit against FCA, and called the secret accounts new evidence.

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.

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"GM has...taken a page from Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s infamous February 9, 1950 claim of having compiled 'evidence' of State Department employees who were allegedly members of the communist party," Nedelman wrote. "Senator McCarthy never actually made the list public but garnered significant attention by promoting his claim that 'I have here in my hand a list... of those supposed State Department employees.

A GM spokesman could not be reached immediately for comment Saturday. FCA officials have called GM's lawsuit "meritless."

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"Like Senator McCarthy, GM fails to disclose the alleged 'list” (if it exists), but has garnered significant public attention (which may have been its goal) by mere allegations of its existence," the lawyer added.

On Monday, GM alleged Iacobelli and others controlled offshore bank accounts  in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Italy, Singapore, the Cayman Islands and other countries. Tens of millions of dollars flowed into the accounts and were used to bribe UAW leaders.

Nedelman faulted GM for failing to provide any evidence of the bank accounts in its amended complaint.

The accounts benefited or were linked to several notable figures, including former UAW President Dennis Williams, Iacobelli and former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton. And the filing says payoffs through the foreign accounts also benefited former UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who retired in 2010.

Ron Gettelfinger retired as president of the UAW in 2010 after two terms.

Gettelfinger denied receiving bribes funneled through offshore accounts.

"A critical review of GM’s claim of alleged 'newly discovered evidence' reveals that the information GM promotes as 'evidence' is not evidence at all, but instead mere allegations based on inference, conjecture and supposition, all finding their roots in the alleged results of an alleged 'privileged' investigation conducted by undisclosed persons at the behest of GM," Nedelman wrote.

"Mr. Iacobelli will not dignify the proposed first amended complaint by a substantive response to its scurrilous allegations or its legal sufficiency, since it contains mere allegations of GM’s counsel that, in the absence of 'newly discovered [admissible] evidence' to support it, must be ignored."

Iacobelli, 60, who bought a Ferrari, $36,000 bejeweled pens and a backyard pool with money siphoned during a conspiracy involving the automaker and the UAW, was sentenced two years ago to 5 1/2 years in federal prison. He is serving the sentence at a West Virginia prison and is scheduled to be released in September 2023.

GM is precluded from trying to reinstate the lawsuit unless the automaker's legal team finds new information or can point to legal errors.

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The judge did not err in dismissing the lawsuit and GM failed to provide any evidence about the offshore bank accounts, Iacobelli's lawyer wrote, calling the allegations a "fiction."

"Where is the admissible evidence upon which GM relies?" Nedelman wrote. "Answer: There isn’t any."

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews