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Renault Apologizes in Spy Case

Senior execs under fire; wrongly accused execs to get “reparations.”

by on Mar.15, 2011

Renault COO Patrick Pelata offers to resign.

Renault’s top two execs have apologized to three other senior managers wrongfully accused in what was initially billed as a Chinese spy case – but which now appears to have been a scam by members of the French automaker’s own security team.

Renault’s second-in-command offered to resign on Monday, while authorities question a corporate security official who could reveal the details of what is now seen as an internal fraud.  Meanwhile, the three executives fired after being accused of spying are now set to receive “reparations,” according to Renault.

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The carmaker’s top two executives, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Pelata, said through a spokesperson that they “acknowledge the enormous personal harm that the (fired employees) and their families have suffered.”  As a result, “their honor in the public eye will be restored (and) reparations (will) be made.”

The mess began when Renault received an anonymous tip indicating the three managers, Michel Balthazard, Bertrand Rochette and Matthieu Tenenbaum, were secretly on the Chinese payroll and leaking information about Renault’s expansive electric vehicle program.  They were suspended on January 11, Renault claiming it had proof they were receiving “funds from a foreign source.”

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Plot Thickens in Renault Spy Case

Company security agent arrested for fraud.

by on Mar.14, 2011

Carlos Ghosn now faces both a spy scandal at Renault and the impact of the Japanese earthquake on Nissan.

The ongoing investigation into claims that Chinese spies had infiltrated the French carmaker Renault has taken another turn worthy of a pulp spy novel.

A company security agent is now facing charges of “organized fraud,” accused of inventing the claim of industrial espionage that saw three senior Renault executives come under a cloud of suspicion.  While those managers now seem totally exonerated, it is unclear if others might face charges in what is now being described as a scam.

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The latest twist could further complicate matters for Renault’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, who came under fire for his outspoken comments early on in what was billed as a Chinese effort to tap into the French maker’s aggressive electric vehicle program.  Complicating matters personally for Ghosn, he also serves as CEO for Renault’s Japanese alliance partner, Nissan, and is now overseeing efforts to try to figure out just how much damage the Asian maker suffered as the result of last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

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Renault’s Chinese Espionage Case May Have Been “Malevolent Hoax”

Will case bring down CEO Carlos Ghosn?

by on Mar.04, 2011

The "gravity" of the situation could be severe for CEO Ghosn if the intelligence investigation clears three Renault executives.

What appeared to be a major case of China espionage may actually be nothing more than what some are now describing as a “malevolent hoax,” the result of angry office politics at French automaker Renault.

An investigation by the French equivalent of the FBI has found no evidence that Renault employees were on the payroll of Chinese spymasters.  The report that could prove seriously embarrassing to both the maker and its outspoken CEO Carlos Ghosn, whose career could now be in jeopardy, according to some observers.

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The incident made headlines, last October, when a Renault committee received an anonymous “ethical alert” indicating three of its employees might have been getting cash for leaking details of the maker’s aggressive electric vehicle program to foreign interests.  Renault – along with Japanese alliance partner Nissan – is launching an array of battery vehicles and planning to expand production to more than 500,000 vehicles a year by mid-decade.

On January 3rd, the French maker suspended three executives, one of whom sat on its management committee.  The maker also said it would take legal action, which French government officials feared might set off an economic war with China.

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