Lawyers for rejected General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group dealerships say they have an edge in upcoming arbitration hearings: the dealers themselves.
The lawyers plan to paint dealers as pillars of their communities, providing jobs, taxes and charitable contributions. The lawyers also will try to show how dealers suffered from the terminations of their franchises.
"The dealers will provide a narrative, telling the arbitrators who they were and what they did," said Mike Charapp, a McLean, Va., lawyer with two dozen arbitration clients. "They'll describe how they went through tough times and learned to survive and how that was all taken away from them."
The lawyers are taking an emotional approach for the arbitrators even though the arbitration law makes little mention of the dealers as human beings. Instead, the arbitrators are instructed to consider objective criteria, such as dealerships' achievement of performance objectives and economic viability.
No problem, say the lawyers. They will use a two-pronged approach: satisfy the objective criteria in written filings and take a down-to-earth approach in the hearings.
"The dealer will be the most knowledgeable person in the room on the relevant issues," said Leonard Bellavia, a Mineola, N.Y., lawyer with 38 arbitration clients.