Fiat Chrysler UAW corruption had roots in federal bailout of Chrysler

Sven Gustafson

The Detroit News continues its dogged coverage of the federal investigation into corruption at the United Auto Workers union and Fiat Chrysler in a lengthy in-depth report that ties the investigation together with Chrysler’s emergence from bankruptcy protection in 2009, a hefty federal bailout and former CEO Sergio Marchionne’s push to force a merger with crosstown rival General Motors.

It’s a staggering look at the brazen illegal payoffs, kickbacks and embezzlement in the top ranks of both Fiat Chrysler and the UAW, which has so far resulted in 11 criminal convictions — three of them former FCA employees, the rest former UAW leaders — with at least seven others implicated in wrongdoing to date, including former UAW President Gary Jones, who recently resigned. Prosecutors allege all of it was fueled by $12.5 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout funds within days of Chrysler LLC’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009.

The News reports that former FCA Vice President Alphons Iacobelli, then its top labor negotiator, admitted to opening the spigot that same month. He’s now serving 66 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney Office in Detroit. All told, Iacobelli and FCA made more than $9 million in illegal payments over eight years to the UAW to cover salaries and benefits, many of them for "no-show" jobs at the joint UAW-FCA training center in Detroit, which is being dissolved.

What’s more, Prosecutors say that Iacobelli answered on UAW matters solely to Marchionne, who died in a Swiss hospital in 2018. Marchionne was never charged with any wrongdoing, even though investigators reportedly caught him lying about providing gifts to UAW leaders during a meeting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit in 2016. The story also details how prosecutors believe he tried to buy the support of UAW leaders for his repeated bids to get GM to agree to a merger, despite widespread belief that such a move would have led to massive job cuts and plant closures, given the two automakers’ many overlapping products.

The whole Detroit News story is highly worth a read. Find it here.