General Motors hasn't had any success convincing a judge that it was harmed by the millions of dollars flowing from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles into some top-ranking UAW officials' pockets over nearly a decade, but the feud between the crosstown rivals opened a new dimension to the corruption scandal that has sullied the union.
GM claims that the bribery scheme went all the way to the top of FCA — to CEO Sergio Marchionne. Marchionne died in 2018, before GM went public with its allegations.
"Sergio was not shy about trying to create some drama at the bargaining table," said Art Wheaton, a professor of labor at Cornell University. "He ruffled quite a few different feathers over his career. I think the lawsuit for GM and Fiat Chrysler is somewhat related to some of the antics or strategies or tactics that Sergio was known to have used in the past."
GM in November 2019 filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against FCA and three former FCA executives who had pleaded guilty in the federal corruption probe involving the UAW. In July, a federal judge dismissed the case with prejudice. GM has since appealed and filed state lawsuits related to the allegations in the federal case.
In the federal lawsuit, GM said that FCA engaged in a "multiyear pattern of corruption ... to undermine the integrity of the collective bargaining process and cause GM substantial damages." Among the examples it cited: in 2010 Marchionne gave the UAW's top negotiator with Chrysler, General Holiefield, an expensive Italian watch but declared it to be worth less than $50. GM says FCA later paid for Holiefield's wedding in Italy.
Holiefield died in 2015, but his widow is among the 15 people who have been convicted in the scandal.