In what must surely be one of the strangest soap opera style turns in Detroit’s long automotive history, FCA executive Reid Bigland has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his own employer. According to the Detroit News, he’s alleging the company attempted to make him a scapegoat in their quagmire of being investigated for questionable sales reporting practices.
Alert readers will recall FCA was in hot water not long ago when the feds began scrutinizing the company’s sales reporting processes. At the time, they were touting 75 consecutive months of year-over-year growth. That number was chopped in half after revisions made following some stern inquiries by investigators.
Bigland alleges other execs retaliated against him when he cooperated with these investigators who were asking tough questions about how the company chose to report its monthly sales. He’s said to have testified at length to the SEC about the practices which predate his tenure as U.S. sales boss.
A white paper written by Bigland to the SEC apparently revealed the full scope of his participation in the government inquiry, stating he had not altered the practices used by Fiat Chrysler in reporting sales and was using existing processes and procedures when he showed up at the place. In addition to sending the document to the SEC, it also went to his employer. This, the suit alleges, ramped up the retaliation that included withholding stock payouts which slashed Bigland’s pay by 90 percent.
The lawsuit says FCA brass is holding on to that money with the intent to use it to pay fines or settlements to the SEC. Ouch.
Allegedly, Fiat Chrysler also had it out for Bigland after he sold his shares in the company last year, a move “which highly irritated” the automaker. His compensation is seemingly made up of a base salary plus an annual bonus and stock payout. The suit says FCA told Bigland in March that the latter two were being withheld indefinitely. Undoubtedly, that was a catalyst for today’s news of the lawsuit filing. It’s also from where the $1.8 million figure was calculated.
It’s a tangled web, one which gets even more convoluted when you consider a report from the Detroit Free Press which states CEO Mike Manley also sold a good number of his shares in the company to the tune of $3.5 million. He apparently did so after the announcement that FCA had proposed a 50-50 merger with French automaker Renault. That deal collapsed Wednesday night, by the way.
All of which suggests the major bone of contention between employer and employee is Bigland’s level of cooperation with the feds and his stance on the issue. We’ll keep our ear to the ground and update this story if more details become available.
Source: The Detroit News