Almost 300 of the Chrysler dealers whose franchises were terminated in the 2009 bailout plan to continue their fight in Washington next week, nine years after they sued the U.S. Treasury.
The trial is to begin April 8 in the Court of Federal Claims and is expected to last six to eight weeks. If the dealers succeed, the court could order the Treasury to pay as much as $850 million to terminated dealers. The trial could act as a harbinger for terminated General Motors dealers, who filed a separate but similar lawsuit in 2010.
The court will decide whether the government coerced Chrysler to terminate 789 of its franchises — a quarter of its dealer network — as a condition of the bailout or whether Chrysler made the decision on its own. Dealers are asking the court for the fair value of their stores on the day the franchises were terminated. Damages range from $524,000 to $8.8 million per rooftop among the seven model plaintiffs represented by Bellavia Blatt & Crossett in Mineola, N.Y., said Len Bellavia, founding partner.
The trial will include testimonies from high-profile witnesses, such as Steven Rattner and Ron Bloom, who were senior members of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's auto team; Bob Nardelli, who was CEO of Chrysler; Peter Grady, who was Chrysler's director of dealer operations; current and former dealers; and industry analyst Maryann Keller.