Court of appeals delays Barra, Manley meeting

Kalea Hall Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Wednesday conference between General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Mike Manley to settle their historic racketeering lawsuit has been canceled after the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily delayed the court-ordered meeting.

General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman on June 23 ordered the two CEOs to meet within a week to reach a "sensible" resolution — and to report the results to him at noon, July 1. But GM fought against that order on Friday, asking the court of appeals to vacate it and reassign its racketeering lawsuit against FCA.

"In order to provide sufficient time to consider the matters raised in GM’s petition, and having considered the relevant factors, we conclude that a temporary stay is appropriate," the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its Monday order. 

"We look forward to the 6th Circuit's review and decision," GM said in a statement.

In a statement, FCA wrote: "As we have said from the date this lawsuit was filed, it is meritless and FCA will continue to defend itself vigorously and pursue all available remedies in response to this groundless lawsuit.”  

In response to GM's appeal, FCA filed papers arguing for Borman to be kept on the case because it's not unusual for a judge to tell the parties to explore the possibility of a settlement, and GM failed "to identify any 'extraordinary' circumstances warranting reassignment."

"GM may be unhappy about questions Judge Borman posed during oral argument that bore upon the validity of GM’s claims ... but asking tough questions is a court’s mandate; it is hardly grounds for a judge to be removed from a case." FCA further argued that "parties are not permitted to engage in such judge shopping."

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Mike Manley

GM filed the 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.

In his June 23 order, Borman said leaders at both companies would be distracted by the litigation at a time when their attention and leadership are needed during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice.

In its Friday filing, GM wrote that Borman's "unprecedented order is a profound abuse of the power and the critically important, but essentially limited, office of the federal judiciary."

On Saturday, the judge amended his order to allow legal counsel to sit in on the Barra and Manley meeting.

Twitter: @bykaleahall