Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne harshly criticized the automaker’s then-top US spokesperson in 2015 for issuing press releases on the automaker’s emissions practices days after Volkswagen admitted to using emissions cheat software on diesel vehicles, Reuters reports. Excerpts from a September 22nd, 2015 email from Marchionne to former FCA US Spokesperson Gualberto Ranieri, in which he asks whether Ranieri is “out of [his] goddam mind,” were filed in federal court by lawyers suing FCA for defrauding shareholders by allegedly lying about its own use of cheat software.
In the email, Marchionne called Ranieri’s actions “utterly stupid and unconscionable.”
“It’s understandable that our CEO would have a forceful response to any employee who would opine on such a significant and complex matter, without the matter having been fully reviewed through its appropriate channels,” FCA said in a statement Monday. Ranieri’s releases were issued just days after Volkswagen’s diesel cheating was made public, the automaker said, “before a comprehensive internal review and discussions with component suppliers was possible.”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, its CEO, and several other executives were sued in 2015 over allegations that it misled shareholders by overstating its ability to adhere to vehicle safety regulations, Reuters reports. The lawsuit was expanded last year to include allegations that FCA also falsely claimed compliance with emissions laws. The excerpts from Marchionne’s 2015 email to Gualberto Ranieri were filed as plaintiffs seek approval to take as many as 40 additional depositions in the case.
As harshly as Marchionne reprimanded Ranieri for his press releases, as recently as January, 2017, the CEO himself maintained that “there’s not a guy in this [company] who would try something as stupid as cheating on diesel tests. We don’t belong to a class of criminals.” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is currently in the process of settling a lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice, and any deal is sure to come with some sizable fines.