The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 6 gave GM a split decision in its challenge of U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman's stunning June 23 order in the high-profile case that pits the two automakers against each other. That means the CEOs can't be ordered to meet, but it wasn't a complete win for GM.
Borman had called for a face-to-face meeting between the two CEOs, Barra for GM and Manley for FCA, saying that should the case go forward it would be a waste of resources. He cited the need to heal a country beset by crises, such as COVID-19 and racism, which he said was exemplified in episodes like the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police.
The underlying lawsuit, which is connected to the UAW corruption scandal and which FCA has called meritless, accuses FCA of corrupting the bargaining process and costing GM billions of dollars in an effort to force a merger between the two companies. The UAW is not a defendant.
The appeals court in its order essentially vacates Borman's order but the court chose not to reassign the case as GM had requested, meaning Borman will continue to oversee it. Borman's order in June came at the tail end of a more than two-hour hearing on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He did not rule on the motion, saying he would take it under advisement.
The appeals court indicated judges can facilitate settlement conferences, but it highlighted concerns that specific representatives of the companies---the CEOs in this case---were ordered to attend the meeting and that it be held in person.
"The district judge accordingly failed to provide legally adequate reasons to establish that it was appropriate to order the CEOs personally to meet face-to-face to consider a possible settlement," according to the appeals court decision.
GM issued a statement through spokesman Jim Cain, saying it's grateful for the appeals court's review and criticizing FCA.
"This is an important case because former FCA executives have already admitted they conspired to use bribes to gain labor benefits, concessions and advantages. As the facts will show, their corruption caused direct harm to GM and we have a responsibility to our stakeholders to seek justice and hold FCA accountable," GM said.
FCA has repeatedly pushed back against GM's claims.
"As we have said from the date this lawsuit was filed, it is meritless and FCA will continue to defend itself vigorously and pursue all available remedies in response to GM's groundless lawsuit," according to a statement sent by FCA spokesman Jeff Bennett.