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HARALD HAMPRECHT

Daimler vs. Lieb; next round in April



January 19, 2012 - 2:00 am ET
Harald Hamprecht is Editor-in-Chief at Automotive News Europe.Harald Hamprecht is Editor-in-Chief at Automotive News Europe.

Fired Mercedes-Benz USA boss Ernst Lieb's wrongful-dismissal lawsuit is set to be heard in a Stuttgart court on April 12. Lieb will challenge allegations contained in Daimler's response to that suit that he improperly used more than $100,000 in company funds to upgrade the Mercedes-owned U.S. home in Mahwah, New Jersey, where he lived.

Lieb's lawyer, Stefan Naegele, plans to show that the 56-year-old executive was one of dozens of Mercedes executives who has been fired unfairly as part of parent Daimler's wide-reaching "zero tolerance" crackdown on ethics violations.

"None of the accusations are justified. And we will prove that," Naegele told Automotive News Europe in a telephone interview in late December.

Daimler fired Lieb in late October ending his five-year run as CEO. During a Nov. 29 preliminary hearing, Daimler alleged that Lieb used company money to pay for items such as a home theater system, home gym, washer, dryer and built-in barbecue system. A Daimler spokesman added that Lieb was fired because he "made incomplete, inaccurate and manipulative statements to the company and the responsible persons" during a company audit of spending by overseas executives.

My suggestion to both parties: Get this settled as quickly and quietly as possible. The longer this drags on the worse it will be for the image of both sides.