The whistleblower case for embattled Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales chief Reid Bigland will remain in Detroit.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain denied a motion Monday from FCA's legal team to move the case to Delaware. FCA attorneys tried to persuade the court to consider the automaker's equity incentive plan, which "designates Delaware as the exclusive jurisdiction for any matter relating to the plan."
One of Bigland's claims is that the company retaliated against him for selling his FCA stock.
But FCA's reasoning didn't hold up, with the judge agreeing with Bigland's side that the suit is a retaliation case not covered by stock agreement language regarding the venue for litigation.
The court said Bigland is a Michigan resident, "the place where the pertinent agreements were executed and performed, as well as where the alleged retaliatory conduct occurred."
"We're pleased about it. Michigan is the correct forum," said Bigland's attorney, Deborah Gordon. "We're raising whistleblower and retaliations claims that are not covered by the stock agreement."
Bigland accuses FCA of withholding 90 percent of his pay after he cooperated with federal investigators probing years of incorrect sales reports. Bigland's lawsuit claims FCA retaliated against him because of his participation in a Securities and Exchange Commission probe into the company's sales reporting and his decision to sell his FCA stock.
The complaint portrays Bigland as a scapegoat for sales practices that were changed in July 2016, when the company admitted that a 75-month streak of year-over-year gains had actually ended three years earlier.
Bigland's lawsuit says he inherited a sales reporting system created in 1989. He has been head of U.S. sales since July 2011. He also has global responsibility for Ram and is CEO of FCA Canada.
FCA agreed to pay $40 million as part of a settlement with the SEC for misleading investors about its monthly sales. The SEC said FCA was doing so "without admitting or denying" its findings.