Feds: FCA exec lied to grand jury about conspiracy
Detroit – A former Fiat Chrysler executive who helped oversee a worker training center was charged in federal court Wednesday and accused of covering up a conspiracy involving auto executives funneling illegal payments to union leaders.
Michael Brown, who helped run the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, is the seventh person charged in a widening corruption investigation and is expected to plead guilty. The criminal case filed Wednesday alleges he covered up a conspiracy designed to wring concessions from the United Auto Workers that favored the automaker.
Brown, 60, of West Bloomfield Township, lied while testifying in front of a federal grand jury in December 2015, according to the federal court filing. At the time, Brown was a director in Fiat Chrysler’s employee relations department but he has since left the company.
His lawyer did not immediately respond to message seeking comment Wednesday.
Brown is the third former Fiat Chrysler official ensnared in an ongoing investigation that emerged publicly last summer and has since widened to Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. The conspiracy described by prosecutors raises questions about the sanctity of labor contracts negotiated between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler.
A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who has been questioned by federal investigators, has said the alleged conspiracy had “nothing whatsoever to do with the collective bargaining process.”
Brown worked in a department that reported to Fiat Chrysler executive Michael Keegan, who was appointed head of the automaker’s global communications in August.
Two other former Fiat Chrysler executives have been charged and struck plea deals with federal prosecutors. They include former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli, who prosecutors say bought a $354,000 Ferrari and two, rare $35,700 fountain pens with training center funds.
The other former FCA executive is analyst Jerome Durden. Durden is alleged to have helped transfer millions of dollars in training center funds to the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, widow Monica Morgan-Holiefield and Iacobelli.
Morgan-Holiefield struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors in February.
The criminal charge filed Wednesday accuses Brown of lying and trying to cover up a conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. Brown concealed the alleged conspiracy by “deliberately providing misleading and incomplete testimony,” according to the charge.
If convicted, Brown faces up to three years in federal prison.
Brown was co-director of the training center at a time when his co-director and UAW counterpart was Keith Mickens. Mickens was charged last month and accused of buying luggage, electronics, designer clothes and golf equipment with money that was supposed to help train blue-collar workers.
Mickens, 64, also is expected to plead guilty.
Fiat Chrysler and UAW officials lived lavishly with money funneled from the automaker through the national training center, according to the government.
After the UAW reached a tentative agreement with Fiat Chrysler in September 2015, the union's labor negotiator Nancy Adams Johnson and other UAW officials toasted the deal at London Chop House, the legendary Detroit restaurant. Fiat Chrysler picked up the $6,912 tab.
Adams Johnson, 57, of Macomb Township, received tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payments and benefits from Fiat Chrysler during the alleged conspiracy, including $1,100 designer shoes, first-class flights to California, resort stays and limousine rides, according to federal prosecutors.
She was charged last month with conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act and four counts of receiving and accepting prohibited money and things of value from a union employer. Both are five-year felonies.