FCA CEO Mike Manley with a Ram 1500.
FCA CEO Mike Manley with a Ram 1500.
Photo: Getty Images

GM sued Fiat Chrysler in November, accusing it of corrupt contract negotiations, which led to higher labor costs for GM. In light of events since then, a federal judge is extremely tired of the suit already.

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The judge’s order—for GM CEO Mary Barra and FCA CEO Mike Manley to meet in person and alone—is a good reminder that legal disputes are often only about five or ten percent of actual law and in fact more like regular disputes in real life. Lawsuits are cloaked in legal language—95 pages of it, in GM’s original civil complaint—but it doesn’t follow that resolutions have to be especially complex. That, of course, doesn’t stop some civil proceedings from going on for years at a time, seemingly only to the benefit of the lawyers getting paid to argue them.

Which is just the kind of proceeding Judge Paul Borman foresees happening in the GM-FCA case. On Tuesday, he ordered Barra and Manley to meet in person before July 1 to resolve things, explicitly tying the case to the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Here’s Borman’s order, issued today in U.S. District Court in Michigan. The order has the tone of an extremely disappointed dad and is worth quoting nearly in full. (The order is embedded at the bottom of this post.)

The world has changed dramatically since this case was filed on November 20, 2019. This city, this state, and this country need healing. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact on the health of this country, requires our attention here and now!

Just as important, is our response to the tragic death of George Floyd, that has brought to the forefront the long-standing issues of racial discrimination, and social justice, that require our attention and solution, here and now!

If this case goes forward, there will be years of contentious litigation; motion hearings, multiple-day depositions of large numbers of executives and former executives, at GM and FCA, as well as United Auto Workers (UAW) officials, other Defendants, many third parties, and a plethora of RICO, labor law, and damages experts.

These “legalities” will not only divert and consume the attention of key GM and FCA executives from their “day jobs”—issues of vehicle production, sales, worker safety, roll-outs, supplier issues, etc.—but also prevent them from fully providing their vision and leadership on this country’s most pressing social justice and health issues.

In 2008, and going forward, the Federal Government focused on rescuing GM and Chrysler, by providing billions of dollars in aid. That saved GM and Chrysler, now FCA, and tens of thousands of UAW auto workers’ jobs. Today our country needs, and deserves, that these now-healthy great companies pay us back, by also focusing on rescuing this country and its citizens from the plagues of COVID-19, racism, and injustice, while building the best motor vehicles in the world.

While watching television news, I have seen CEOs Mary Barra of GM, and Michael Manley of FCA join together, time and again (often with Bill Ford) to provide some attention, leadership and skills to solving social and economic issues for the good of their companies, their workers, their communities, and our country.

So too, I have noticed some attorneys devoting their skills to provide equal justice for all citizens, in particular those less fortunate who require representation in our courts.

What a waste of time and resources, now and for the years to come in this mega litigation, if these automotive leaders and their large teams of lawyers, are required to focus significant time-consuming efforts to pursue this “nuclear option” lawsuit, if it goes forward.

Borman goes on to order that Manley and Barra meet with absolutely no one else present, social distancing of course. It sure sounds like Borman is pretty fed up with all the lawyers in this case! I count 19 alone listed in PACER, the government’s court records database. Surely dozens more behind the scenes.

I am ordering that no later than July 1, 2020, just the two CEOs, Mary Barra and Michael Manley, meet in person (social distancing), to reach a sensible resolution of this huge legal distraction. This will enable you personally, and your companies to fully concentrate, in addition to your “day jobs”, not just through committees, on providing the leadership and vision this country requires, and deserves, in solving today’s aforementioned critical issues.

Time is of the essence. So, I repeat; Mary Barra and Michael Manley, meet face-to-face, in good faith, and with good will, to resolve this huge legal diversion, to permit you and your companies to also fully focus your talents on healing this country as we all embark on the critical road ahead.

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I appreciate the “nobody cares about your guys’ dumb bullshit anymore” vibe of this order. Extremely here for it, in fact.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

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DISCUSSION

if i see so much as a paralegal; hell, even a goddamn intern, i am turning this car around!