What’s not to love about being a senior executive like Carlos Ghosn in the motoring industry? You get massive pay cheques, people bow and scrape in your royal presence, hang on your every word and laugh at your bad jokes.
Other benefits include journalists being polite to you as they scribble down the pearls of wisdom that fall from your lips, expensive clothes, first-class travel, the cars and other perks.
It’s all good until Interpol issues a “Red Notice” asking people who find you to please arrest you, attach handcuffs to your person and then send you home (would it be in the sharp end of the aircraft?). But, let’s be fair and give Carlos Ghosn, aged 64, the privilege of being innocent until he is proven guilty.
What did Carlos Ghosn do?
It’ll be interesting to see whether the government of Lebanon, where he is now apparently resident, agrees with his claims that Japan has a “rigged” justice system and that allegations of financial wrongdoing that he faces are untrue.
It’s interesting, though, that the multimillionaire CEO chose to leave Japan and ended up in a country with no extradition treaty with that country. But then I suppose when you have passports from France, Lebanon and Brazil, it’s reasonable to be where he is. (Choose Beirut before Rio, go figure.)
The good thing is that the guys from Volkswagen and Audi who, according to the BBC last week, had German prosecutors lay charges of fraud against them, aren’t getting all the attention they are used to for their “Dieselgate” transgressions (go, Carlos, go).
Rupert Stadler and Martin Winterkorn
Now, former Audi boss Rupert Stadler is getting to share the limelight with the good folk on the VW board and executive. According to the Beeb, he is one of four executives accused of “fraud, indirect false certification and criminal advertising”.
Five years on and the company is still trying to shake off the impact of the scandal, even though they fessed up in 2015 and admitted cheating emission tests on 11 million vehicles across the globe.
In May, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and supervisory board chief Hans Dieter Poetsch breathed sighs of relief when their involvement ended with an out-of-court settlement in which about R185 million was paid, and Dieselgate for them became a thing of the past.
Martin Winterkorn, who resigned as VW Group CEO in 2015, still faces fraud charges in the United States (US). Sensibly, he has removed the country from his “to visit” list (good move, Martin).
The scandal has, so far, cost the company about R600 billion in compensation claims, fines and costs for rectifying engines from their pension funds and looks like it will be hanging around for a while yet.
Don’t worry boys; the AFP media service says that things will soon be getting hot for other people.
Fiat Chrysler and truckmaker Iveco have got investigators in Germany, Switzerland and Italy searching at least 10 commercial properties. The result could be “Dieselgate11”, coming to a cinema near you soon.
Under examination are suspect engines belonging to Fiat “Family B” vehicles. These include 1.3-litre, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre Multijet engines of the EU5 and EU6 emission classes used in Alfa, Fiat and Jeep vehicles as well as Iveco and Fiat commercial vehicles.
Nine people in Italy are being investigated.
Again, it is a continuing saga that could be entertaining for years to come. For those who may have forgotten, it was back in January 2019 that Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay about R9 billion to cover its use of “defeat devices” in the US. A senior manager was indicted with misleading US environmental regulators.
Let’s also give Fiat Chrysler a break and not dwell on the story of former CEO Sergio Marchionne. He died in July 2018 before he could answer criminal charges involving the bribing of United Auto Workers leaders to obtain favourable terms on worker contracts (yeah, move on).
Our very own Elon Musk
Our very own Elon Musk has had his fair share of attention, especially from the US Securities and Exchanges Commission, about saying things he shouldn’t.
One of the most notable was the tweet that he was going to take Tesla private and had secured finance. He was sued by the SAC who wanted him relieved of his job and banned from ever running a public company.
Again, the almighty dollar seems to have made an appearance. The matter was settled, Musk gave up his chairmanship and accepted the slap on the wrist that involved restrictions on his tweets and getting approval before posting about major corporate events (does that cover the Tesla annual employee barbecue?).
Takata airbag saga
Then, who could forget the exploding Takata airbags that led to three unnamed Japanese executives facing criminal charges in the US in 2017? The three were charged with fabricating test data to mask a fatal airbag defect.
It turned out that it was nothing that a guilty plea and an R17 billion fine of wire fraud for providing the erroneous data couldn’t sort out. But, the Takata’s fat lady hasn’t sung yet, and car recalls, and court actions continue. It’s great for the “class action” lawyers who desperately need to update their executive jets.
John DeLorean: Cocaine, catastrophes and crazy cars
Let’s finish with the case of John DeLorean, who went to enormous lengths to keep his brand on the road.
He didn’t do so by taking a bank loan but instead thought that having some cocaine for sale (actually 100kg worth about $24 million in 1982) would help. It meant that he could have settled debts of about $17 million, and had about $7 million for pocket money.
The court took a dim view of an FBI informant, knowing that his finances were in dire straits, enticing DeLorean to finance the deal. The car mogul was found not guilty because of the entrapment. Unfortunately, by the time this happened in 1984, DMC had closed its doors.
As a final insult, the man later sold his beautiful 176ha estate in New Jersey to Donald Trump in 2000. In pure Trump form, the estate is now a golf course. DeLorean died in 2005 aged 80.
It seems Carlos Ghosn isn’t alone in his transgressions.