His lawsuit contends FCA retaliated against him.
Reid Bigland, head of Ram sales in the U.S. and CEO of FCA Canada, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the company in response to alleged retaliation against him. The Detroit Free Press reports Bigland’s lawsuit claims he was punished for cooperating with U.S. authorities investigating FCA’s sales reporting practices.
According to the report, Bigland’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, said he “refused to become a scapegoat for defendants’ long-standing reporting practices which predated him by reporting the full scope of this information to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.” To that end, the lawsuit says FCA withheld most of his 2018 compensation as punishment, and instead used it to pay fines. No exact amount was specified, but Gordon said it was “in the millions of dollars.”
The U.S. Justice Department investigated FCA for possible sales reporting issues in 2016. One major point investigators scrutinized was that FCA’s “impressive sales streak of 75 months of consecutive sales gains actually ended in September 2013.” Bigland said the company’s sales reporting methodology, in place since the late 1980s, was to blame.
Up until 2016, the company’s practices reportedly allowed dealers to change their sales figures. One month, they could report a certain amount of sales. After that, however, they could “unwind” sales and return the vehicles to dealer inventory, according to the Free Press report. Bigland provided a white paper to the SEC in January 2019.
Bigland sold his shares in FCA
Back in March, an FCA compensation committee reportedly was concerned about the “recent sales of all [Bigland’s] shares.” The lawsuit alleges he was the “only person” in the company to have done so. Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley reportedly sold $3.5 million of his shares last week, upon the news that the company proposed a 50-50 merger deal with French automaker Renault. That deal fell apart Wednesday, as the company delayed a vote on the matter. Ultimately, FCA withdrew its proposal.
FCA issued a statement on the lawsuit, as reported by the Free Press. “We note the lawsuit filed by Reid Bigland. His eligibility for incentive compensation — like that of all corporate officers — is subject to a determination by the Board of Directors’ compensation committee that he has satisfied the applicable company and personal performance conditions. Mr. Bigland’s eligibility for his award remains subject to that determination and completion of a board-level evaluation of issues that are the subject to governmental investigations (as previously disclosed by FCA) in which FCA continues to cooperate. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing litigation or internal compensation processes.”
H/T to Detroit Free Press.