General Motors shifted its legal strategy in its court fight to prove that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. conspired with key United Auto Workers officers to damage GM’s competitive position.
The auto company filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court, hoping perhaps that state laws will be more favorable and allow for GM’s lawyers to begin the discovery process. Wayne County is located in Detroit, where GM is headquartered.
In July, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the original lawsuit that GM filed in November. Borman held that GM that automaker could not support a federal racketeering suit against FCA because it could not support a claim the conspiracy was the direct cause of any damages. GM is appealing the ruling.
In a new lawsuit filed against FCA and Alphons Iacobelli, the former FCA vice president of labor relations who was convicted of violating federal labor law by bribing a key UAW officer and union staffers, GM continues to claim that FCA and key lieutenants bribed UAW officials as part of a broader plan to force a GM-FCA merger.
Despite the shift to a different court, FCA doesn’t appeared feel anything has changed, saying the new lawsuit filed in Wayne County “is a rehash of the preposterous conspiracy theories propounded by GM in its federal lawsuit that Judge Borman dismissed prejudice.” The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company also said it would mount an “aggressive” defense.
GM’s lawyers have been busy this week, filing a new lawsuit in New Jersey against Joe Ashton, a former UAW vice president who also was a member of GM’s board of directors for three years.
The lawsuit charges that Ashton leaked confidential information to rival Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers, a move the company claims added billions to its labor costs.
In its lawsuit, GM says Fiat Chrysler used funds from offshore bank accounts to bribe Ashton in exchange for confidential information to which he had access while he was a member of GM’s board.
The company also accuses Ashton of taking bribes from Fiat Chrysler during the time he served as the UAW’s lead labor negotiator with GM, in an attempt to drive a harder bargain with GM in labor negotiations. Ashton is now awaiting sentencing on criminal charges, stemming from a separate kickback scandal uncovered by federal investigators.
GM’s initial case against FCA actually was kicked back to Borman by an appellate court. The company tried to introduce additional evidence – the existence of the off-shore accounts – but ultimately, Borman dismissed the case — again.