By on June 6, 2019


There’s drama in Auburn Hills tonight. And, by the sounds of it, for many days leading up to this point. Reid Bigland, Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales boss and the appropriately imposing head of the cash-cow Ram brand, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his employer.

Bigland, who joined Chrysler in 2006 and soon found himself heading up Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Dodge, plus serving as CEO of FCA Canada (a role he maintains), claims the company’s HQ is awash in bad blood. The exec says he’s being punished for not taking the fall in a federal investigation into FCA’s sales reporting.

The suit, filed Wednesday, alleges FCA brass retaliated against Bigland after he cooperated with the probe, The Detroit News reports. It goes on to say that Bigland’s pay fell by more than 90 percent after he declined to admit wrongdoing, arguing last year that he had inherited the company’s sales reporting practices.

The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation in 2016 after two Illinois FCA dealers hit the company with a racketeering lawsuit, claiming they were offered cash in return for falsely inflating their sales figures. The practice of counting certain unsold vehicles as sales forced FCA to recount and re-report its past sales volumes.

The SEC’s investigation continued.

Bigland claims, per the lawsuit, that he told investigators FCA’s sales reporting methodology existed long before his time as sales chief. Former CEO Sergio Marchionne knew about it, he stated. Between taking the position and the time of the investigation, Bigland claims he did nothing to tamper with the reporting apparatus already in place. In the suit, Bigland’s lawyer says the SEC hoped to end the probe with an admission of “some” wrongdoing on her client’s part — an offer Bigland declined. He further detailed the company’s reporting practices in a letter sent to the SEC and FCA late last year.

Apparently, the shit hit the fan blades soon after.

From The Detroit News:

“(Bigland’s) unwillingness to act as a scapegoat for defendants’ 30-year practice which predated him, and his candor regarding defendants’ knowledge of this practice prior to and during his tenure as head of U.S. caused FCA to retaliate against plaintiff less than 2 months later by withholding his compensation,” Bigland’s lawyer wrote.

“His eligibility for incentive compensation — like that of all corporate officers — is subject to a determination by the Board of Directors’ compensation committee that he has satisfied the applicable company and personal performance conditions,” FCA said in an e-mailed statement to The News.

“Mr. Bigland’s eligibility for his award remains subject to that determination and completion of a Board-level evaluation of issues that are the subject to governmental investigations (as previously disclosed by FCA) in which FCA continues to cooperate. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing litigation or internal compensation processes.”

Knocked down to a base salary in the absence of bonuses (Bigland sold his company shares in 2018, the suit claims, angering FCA officials), the exec remains at odds with his company — and allegedly far less wealthy than before.

Bigland’s lawsuit claims FCA withheld his compensation to pay for future fines levied by the SEC.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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18 Comments on “Fiat Chrysler’s Reid Bigland Files Lawsuit Against… Fiat Chrysler...”

  • avatar

    Was he known to be gunning for the CEO position?

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Wow, does this sour the bid for a Renault marriage…or, is this the kind of thing the Frogs are into? No wonder the Nissan folks are wary.

    • 0 avatar

      The merger was officially called off before this story broke. But I have to think Nissan and Renault knew all about FCA’s legal issues. No wonder the French government pooh-poohed this. No one wanted any piece of that nonsense.

  • avatar

    There’s some funny business going on.

    Remember Fred Diaz? He was the FCA exec that saw Ram spun out of Dodge as its own brand and launched the MY2013 Ram trucks before jumping over to…Nissan. Diaz is now CEO of Mitsubishi or something like that.

    This was the point at which Reid Bigland became CEO of Ram Brand.

    Now there’s news ON THE SAME DAY that:
    1)FCA takes its ball and goes home because “Nissan didn’t want to play”
    2)FCA’s Head of US Sales and #2 US Sales Generator (Ram brand), a position he inherited from an exec that is now with the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, sues FCA.

    Hmm. I don’t believe in coincidences.

  • avatar

    I wonder if auto companies hold their employees to binding arbitration proceedings when problems can’t be solved— like they do their customers?

    I’m seeing a lot of arbitration clauses in the ever-increasing amount of internet cookie TOS updates. Maybe this is standard across-the-board 2019 contract gotchas— soon to be found in more employment agreements, as well?

    Alabama example: My Niece is terrified to be around my (smoker) parents— her teaching contract and handlers have her convinced she can be released from employment for *smelling* like cigarette smoke.

    My dear Mother is a carbon-copy of early-run Peg Bundy and this causes great dissonance. When I was a kid, she smoked those long thin brown menthol cigarettes. Played Bunko. Had cookie exchange with the hens. Drank rum. Still bought and used the Alberto V05.

    It never felt like a horror story. Neighbor Marcy never once got a ciggie butt in her salad. The cigarette butts go in the (washed, natch) cut-glass ashtrays on the bronze stands, you know? Like normal people.

    I don’t pretend to understand ethics in 2019, but this argument is just a guy that knew he was doing wrong— doing wrong— and hiding under the contract that okay’ed the unethical behaviours. Bigland is a powerful attained man, and we reward emboldened liars of his type in the US— so long as none of the-inbuilt ‘gotchas’ get them.

    Fun games.

    If he makes it out of this intact— he should take-up politics.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Always appreciate a good Married with Children reference. Particularly when included in some pretty astute analysis.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, Mr. Bigland doesn’t seem to understand that part of his compensation is to so, if needed, he is supposed to fall on his sword for the company.

      Contrary to popular belief Execs aren’t (usually) paid the compensation they are “just because”, there are implicit obligations to that compensation. If Bigland is refusing to uphold that implicit obligation, he isn’t entitled to the compensation.

      Also, he could have changed the reporting, or reported it to the SEC himself, he didn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, there’s the kind of sword-fall that involves losing your job, and there’s the kind that puts you in legal jeopardy. Sounds like Bigland wasn’t willing to do the latter kind.

        • 0 avatar

          Let’s be real for a moment. The sort of executive compensation that is 90% bonus is about being above legal consequences. They just have to be willing to toe the biggest shareholders’ line with a straight face.

        • 0 avatar

          Bigland couldn’t even stomach doing maybe two years in minimum security for the Agnellis?
          Dude is lucky he got a pay cut instead of concrete shoes.

        • 0 avatar

          If his bonus is 90% of his comp he’s making 7-8 figures. A SEC fine and stern lecture wouldn’t hurt him at all. He’d have a nice severance package and prove himself a good soldier to his next employer.

  • avatar

    So Bigland went along with the reporting scam until he was officially questioned on the matter, then refused to perjure himself. FCA wanted to keep the scam going, so docked Bigland for not being a loyal crook.

    Plenty ‘o scope for some investigating attorney to make a name for themselves in that charade.

  • avatar

    And people think Tesla has drama…

  • avatar

    It sounds like the time for the ascension of Lapo Elkann is upon us!

  • avatar

    “Bigland, who joined Chrysler in 2006 and soon found himself heading up Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Dodge, plus serving as CEO of FCA Canada (a role he maintains), claims the company’s HQ is awash in bad blood. The exec says he’s being punished for not taking the fall in a federal investigation into FCA’s sales reporting.”

    “Soon”, in 2006? In 2006, Chrysler was owned by Cerberus, was helmed by “Minimum Bob” Nardelli, and didn’t have anything to do with Fiat.

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