Photo: John Locher (AP)

In the wake of a fraud investigation over Fiat Chrysler Automobiles screwing with sales figures, Automotive News reports that the company’s Head of U.S. Sales Reid Bigland has filed a lawsuit against FCA alleging that he was scapegoated and had his pay cut in retaliation for cooperating with the SEC.

Bigland is on FCA’s board of directors, currently holding the titles Head of Ram Brand, Head of U.S. Sales and Chairman, and President and CEO, FCA Canada Inc. according to his company bio. Hard to imagine that will be the case much longer, though.

The company has been under scrutiny for fudging numbers on sales reports since accusations broke out in 2016. Sketchy practices at the company in that department dated back to the 1980s, according to the Detroit Free Press.

But Bigland suing his employer is a new twist. As Automotive News explains:

“In the suit, Bigland claims FCA executives have retaliated against him for cooperating with the investigation and slashed his pay by about 90 percent, starting in March. FCA executives plan to use his withheld compensation to pay any penalties or settlements reached with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the lawsuit filed in Michigan’s Oakland County Circuit Court.”

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That “90 percent” pay slash cost Bigland $1.8 million, it seems.

The Detroit News had more good insights on the situation:

“The whistleblower lawsuit provides a rare look inside an ongoing federal investigation — one of at least two targeting Fiat Chrysler — and exposes a private rift between one of the automaker’s top executives and his employer. Separately, FBI agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are investigating corruption within the U.S. auto industry and have secured eight convictions, including former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli, once the automaker’s top labor-relations executive.”

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Bigland is stating that he has cooperated with federal investigators, and that FCA’s sales reporting practices were in place before his appointment to the sales boss job.

As Auto News quoted Bigland’s lawyer Deborah Gordon from the lawsuit: “The SEC also suggested a resolution involving some penalty to FCA. Because (Bigland) had not engaged in any wrongdoing, and there was no wrongdoing, he declined to do so.”

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I reached out to FCA for comment and have not heard back yet, but the company did issue the following statement to automotive news:

“We note the lawsuit filed by Reid Bigland. 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. 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.”

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We will update this post if new significant details come in.