A top Fiat Chrysler executive has filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint against the automaker, alleging it is punishing him for cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of the company’s sales-reporting practices.
Reid Bigland, who has worked for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and its predecessor company for more than two decades, filed the lawsuit in Oakland, Michigan County Court, alleging the automaker started withholding his pay after discovering he shared the company’s sales practices with the SEC via a white paper.
Mr. Bigland is Fiat Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales and has been tapped as a potential CEO candidate. According to the Detroit Free Press, he disclosed the information to the SEC in January 2019 as part of the agency’s investigation that Fiat Chrysler’s “impressive sales streak of 75 months of consecutive sales gains actually ended in September 2013,” earlier than it allegedly reported.
In his complaint, Mr. Bigland says he inherited Fiat Chrysler’s sales-reporting methodology, which had been in place in since the late 1980s. He says the sales reporting practices were widely known among the company’s leadership and had no appreciable impact on investors. He admitted no wrongdoing, saying he “refused to become a scapegoat for defendants’ long-standing reporting practices which predated him by reporting the full scope of this information to the [SEC}.”
The complaint also alleges that Fiat Chrysler’s compensation committee grew concerned about Mr. Bigland’s “recent sales of all his shares” in the company.
Mr. Bigland shared the automaker’s sales reporting practices in detail with the SEC when the company fell under regulatory scrutiny.
Mr. Bigland’s lawyer told CNN Business that the complaint “speaks for itself.”
“My client’s performance has been excellent and there’s no performance-based reason for them to withhold his pay, bonus and shares payout.” In fact, Mr. Bigland’s “performance has been excellent, and that in 2017, when the company recorded its highest profit ever, Bigland had played a significant role in the most profitable areas,” she added, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Mr. Bigland alleges Fiat Chrysler violated Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who “participate in hearings, investigations, legislative inquiries, or court actions.”
Mr. Bigland continues to work for Fiat Chrysler. In addition to head of U.S. Sales, he has served as CEO of Fiat Chrysler Canada since 2006.
Beasley Allen has a whistleblower litigation team experienced in handling these often complex cases. If you feel you have first-hand knowledge of fraud being committed against the government, you may be able to bring a claim. It is important to talk to a lawyer before you take any action. Contact Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Leslie Pescia or Tyner Helms in our Consumer Fraud Section for a confidential evaluation of your claim.