Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is under investigation for fraud and securities violations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, multiple outlets report. Though the investigation is still in its early stages, investigators have already reportedly visited FCA staff at both their offices and their homes.
The dual investigations are thought to be related to a civil lawsuit brought against FCA over its sales reporting practices, which included a company record-setting performance in December, according to Bloomberg:
That performance was challenged in a private lawsuit filed in January by dealerships in Illinois and Florida that alleged the sales were padded through a scheme by which dealers — sometimes unbeknownst to their owners — were paid to create false New Vehicle Delivery Reports. Similar claims were made in a 2015 lawsuit filed by a dealer of Fiat Chrysler-owned Maseratis.
Fiat Chrysler, in a Jan. 14 regulatory filing, said an internal investigation concluded the padding allegations were baseless and that the lawsuit was “nothing more than the product of two disgruntled dealers.”
Investigators are going all-out as well, Automotive News reports:
Federal staff attorneys also visited the headquarters of FCA US in Auburn Hills, Mich., the same day, July 11, a source with direct knowledge said. The person added that FCA employees were advised not to speak with investigators without counsel present. Raids or visits also were conducted in Orlando, Dallas and California, the source said, and included current and former FCA employees.
If this all seems a bit much over some measly sales figures, it’s actually bigger than you think. FCA is a publicly traded company, and investors make decisions to pour millions into it – or pull their dollars out – based on the company’s reported performance. If it turns out the company actually was goosing its numbers, it could mean that people were essentially tricked into putting their money into a company based on fake numbers.
More on this as we have it.