mont blanc ballpoint More indictments coming in Fiat Chrysler
UAW headquarters as seen in July 2017 in Detroit. Three more UAW officials are next on the indictment list in the Fiat Chrysler and UAW bribery scandal.
DETROIT In the wake of new revelations by federal prosecutors that Fiat Chrysler executives bribed union officials to corrupt contract negotiations, the UAW and the automaker are continuing to deny the scheme went any deeper than a pair of bad actors looking to enrich themselves.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, three more Fiat Chrysler executives and three more UAW officials are next on the indictment list in the growing scandal.
New federal documents disclosed last week show a conspiracy that goes deeper into the executive ranks at Fiat Chrysler and the union than previously acknowledged by prosecutors, the union and Fiat Chrysler.
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They also publicly disclose for the first time that Fiat Chrysler executives were bribing union brass with the intention of giving the company a better position at the bargaining table. In one incident cited in the documents, Fiat Chrysler executives scripted a top union official on what to say during a meeting when the company was negotiating to purchase a large stake in Chrysler owned by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust.
The documents were part of former Fiat Chrysler vice president Alphons Iacobelli’s guilty plea Jan. 22 in which he admitted that he and others at Fiat Chrysler paid more than $1.5 million in perks to union bosses, hoping to help the company in the process. The perks included jewelry, trips, custom made watches and a $30,000 party for a UAW official, complete with ultra premium booze, $7,000 worth of cigars and $3,000 in wine with custom labels honoring the union boss.
The UAW and Fiat Chrysler both concede that bad things happened. But at issue is this: Is the scandal only about greedy people stealing Fiat Chrysler training funds to line their own pockets? Or, is it about a more sinister plot involving auto execs trying to corrupt the union contracts to favor the company?
The government says it’s both. So does Iacobelli, one of four people charged since the FBI probe surfaced in July. Three have pleaded guilty, including a Fiat Chrysler financial analyst who admitted to cooking the books to help pull off the scheme. The fourth defendant, Monica Morgan Holiefield, the widow of the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield who is accused of using training funds for herself, has a guilty plea hearing in February.
Al Iacobelli, a former Fiat Chrysler vice president, pleaded guilty Jan. 22,
2018, that he and others at Fiat Chrysler paid more than $1.5 million in perks to union bosses. Here, he walking out of the federal courthouse in Detroit on Aug. 1, 2017.
Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press
UAW President Dennis Williams in a letter sent out to the union rank and file on Friday said Iacobelli is lying when he claims there was a deeper conspiracy.
“It appears that in an attempt to get lenient treatment from the government (Iacobelli) is now falsely spinning his crimes as an effort to corrupt the collective bargaining process between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler,” Williams said. “In reality, it is plain as day that his motivation was nothing more than outright greed.”
Williams admitted that a “handful” of former UAW officials were corrupted which he called a “terrible betrayal of the union’s trust” but said “there is simply no truth to the claim that this misconduct compromised the negotiation of our collective bargaining agreement or had any impact on union funds.”
According to Iacobelli’s detailed plea agreement, Holiefield and others at the UAW sold out tens of thousands of autoworkers so they could drink top shelf booze and custom labeled wines, smoke exotic cigars and wear luxury watches all paid for by Fiat Chrysler executives who prosecutors say were part of a bigger, sinister plan.
The executives were stealing from the UAW Chrysler National Training Center, funded by Fiat Chrysler with money meant to train blue collar workers, and funneling it to UAW leaders through cash payments and gifts.
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The 58 year old auto executive was indicted in July and is the highest ranking Fiat Chrysler executive named so far in a probe that has since spread to training centers at General Motors and Ford.
In pursuing the case, the federal government is relying on the Labor Management Relations Act a 1935 law that was specifically designed to combat the type of corruption that prosecutors say Iacobelli and others were involved in.
UAW: Contracts not compromisedAs was spelled out in Iacobelli’s plea agreement, the money and perks were given to UAW leaders “in an effort to obtain benefits, concessions and advantages for (Fiat Chrysler) in the negotiation, implementation and administration of the collective bargaining agreements between (Fiat Chrysler) and the UAW.”
But the attempt at influence buying went beyond that.
According to Iacobelli’s plea agreement, Holiefield, who died in 2015 at age 61, was once “scripted” by Fiat Chrysler executives on what to say at a 2013 meeting with the UAW executive board. This was disclosed in an email that Iacobelli wrote to another Fiat Chrysler executive, stating that Holiefield had been “scripted” before the meeting and would “create a dialogue pursuant to our outline.”
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At the time of the email, the executive board was considering the terms of a multibillion dollar offer from the company to purchase the nearly 42% stake held by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, or VEBA, in what was then known as Chrysler Group. That deal was completed in January 2014.