For over a year, one former consultant at Nissan's Tennessee headquarters has waged an online campaign accusing the automaker of discrimination and misspending government money. She's been arrested and even surrendered custody of her child "to keep fighting." UPDATE below.
Sharyn Bovat was hired by Nissan North America in January 2009 to help relocate corporate executives, a job she had done as an outside consultant. But for the past 16 months, she accused Nissan's U.S. executives of several acts of malfeasance, such as targeting female executives for layoffs and using government money to pad executive perks.
Her protest has taken the form of a growing panoply of websites that combine jeremiads against Nissan executives with tips on marketing Infinitis, letters to the ACLU, political commentary and quotes from Michael Jackson and Hannah Montana all mixed together in a HTML bowl of sick.
Saying she was told "skirts don't speak," Bovat has offered a series of jumbled complaints about Nissan's corporate culture, saying a "good ole boys" network was fighting for control:
NISSAN for the last few years the company is having an "Internal Battle of Control" the boardroom battles included the Electric Car, Expansions, The alliance, and more. Some high level leaders of the #3 car company in Japan started "internal alliances" Some board members were playing "games" kind of like the TV show Survivor...I had a front row seat at this "cross cultural auto war" I saw a LOT of bad spending at NISSAN and they were wasting American taxpayer money and that bothered me so I found out WHY.
In addition to her main page, Bovat has one devoted to her comedy career, another to Nissan whistleblowing, a third to communicating with Nissan U.S. chief Carlos Tavares, and another for her political beliefs. She even lists "whistleblower" as her job title on her LinkedIn profile.
Nissan has received substantial government aid in the United States over the past few years. Tennessee gave Nissan incentives worth $197 million to shift its U.S. headquarters from California in 2005, a contentious move among Nissan employees. Bovat contends while 21% of Nissan's managers were women in California, the share had fallen to 10% in 2009 following the move to Tennessee.
Nissan also won a $1.6 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to build Leaf electric vehicles and batteries in Tennessee, along with a $99.8 million grant to pay for 2,500 charging stations in five states. Bovat contends some Nissan employees were attempting to set the Leaf up to fail before Tavares stepped in.
In July, Bovat was arrested in the lobby of Nissan's U.S. headquarters in Franklin, Tenn., and charged with trespassing. Prosecutors later charged her with "phone harassment" for texting Tavares shortly after her arrest. That charge was later dismissed, but she faces a trial on the trespassing case.
"I was arrested and taken to jail for retaliation of my Whistle blowing. Now I'm having trouble finding local legal representation because it's a small town she told the 2nd most powerful executive at NISSAN globally about a Good Ole Boy Network".
And in a recent post entitled "To the community," Bovat explained why she withdrew from a custody battle for her young daughter:
This summer I had to make a difficult choice. I chose to keep fighting for fairness. Some believe that my decision makes me a bad parent. OK. I accept your opinion. Although I disagree. My decision will allow for MANY daughters of those living in Tennessee (including mine) to have a chance of a BETTER future. My decision allowed for performers to succeed. My decision allowed for our taxpayer dollars to be spent properly. PLEASE!!!! If you think I love my child any less because of my decision to give up custody to battle for human decency. Think Again!!!
Bovat contends Nissan threatened to sue her and shut down the websites, and she has taken her case to federal authorities. But she also maintains she wants to work for Tavares again, despite a legal order to stay away from Nissan headquarters:
"I'm "tired" of being a Whistleblower!!! Can I have MY life back? The SKIRT SPOKE Tokyo Please Make Change:) :)
UPDATE: Nissan declined to comment on Bovat's legal charge. Spokesman Dave Reuter said Bovat's accusations against Nissan are "absolutely false," adding "Nissan feels it treated Ms. Bovat with respect when she was a consultant." [CoolSprings]