DETROIT -- During a tense September 2000 meeting on the 38th floor of General Motors headquarters in Detroit's Renaissance Center, GM purchasing czar Harold Kutner delivered a blunt message to Delphi's top executives.
Months into a bitter standoff, Delphi's top brass continued to deny they owed GM $250 million for recalls involving faulty parts made while Delphi was still part of GM. Kutner threatened to choke off new business if the supplier didn't cave.
That's the story Delphi's top lawyer at the time, Logan Robinson, relayed to jurors at former Delphi CEO J.T. Battenberg III's securities-fraud trial.
Robinson, the highest ranking former Delphi official to testify so far, said Kutner warned him that Robinson was "calling into jeopardy Delphi's ability to do business with GM" if he didn't back down. (Kutner declined to comment for this story).
Through four weeks of testimony in the civil trial, a parade of former Delphi insiders, lawyers and accountants has cast GM as a bare-knuckled negotiator that set up Delphi for failure after its 1999 spinoff. The 10-member jury will decide whether Battenberg cooked the books in order to hit profit targets, as the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges.
Whatever the jury concludes, the testimony so far offers a rare window into the intense friction between what were then the world's largest automaker and supplier. It also spotlights problems besetting Delphi as it sought firm footing as a new company before stumbling into bankruptcy in 2005.