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Sales chief alleges Fiat Chrysler violated whistleblower law

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief is suing the company, alleging that it withheld 90% of his pay package because he testified in a government inquiry of sales reporting practices.

Reid Bigland, who has been with the company for 22 years, alleges that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles violated Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act, retaliating against him because he testified before the Securities and Exchange Commission in a probe of whether the company inflated sales and deceived stockholders.

The company withheld Bigland’s 2018 long-term incentive stock payout, special dividends and an annual bonus in retaliation for his testimony and because he sold some stock, according to the lawsuit. Documents say the dividends alone are worth about $1.8 million.

The lawsuit is another in a long string of legal troubles for Fiat Chrysler, which also faces federal investigations into illegal payments to union officials through a training center and a criminal probe into allegations that its diesel-powered trucks were programmed to cheat on emissions tests. The company has denied cheating.

In a statement, Fiat Chrysler said the compensation committee of its board still needs to determine whether Bigland met 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 in which FCA continues to cooperate,” the company said, adding that further comment on pending litigation would be inappropriate.

Fiat Chrysler filed paperwork Wednesday seeking to have Bigland’s case heard in the federal courts. It was filed May 24 in a state court in Pontiac near Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. headquarters.