DETROIT -- After a jury cleared him of civil fraud charges last week, former Delphi CEO J.T. Battenberg III said he feels vindicated and would like to work again in the auto industry.
"Now I can return to a normal life," Battenberg told Automotive News Europe sisters publication Automotive News after the verdict. "It's a relief."
Battenberg also said he was "embarrassed for General Motors" as weeks of testimony from several witnesses detailed how the automaker strong-armed the supplier in Delphi's pivotal first year as a stand-alone company after being spun off from GM.
The jury said Battenberg didn't commit fraud related to a $237 million payment Delphi made to former parent GM in 2000. The Securities and Exchange Commission had argued that Battenberg intentionally mischaracterized that payment in SEC disclosures to artificially inflate Delphi's profits.
Though Battenberg was cleared of two fraud allegations, the most serious claims, jurors found the former CEO responsible for three claims of improper bookkeeping and misrepresentations to accountants.
Avoiding a finding of fraud helps Battenberg repair damage to his reputation stemming from the SEC lawsuit, originally filed in 2006.
The trial offered a rare glimpse into the acrimony between what were then the world's largest automaker and supplier. GM soon began demanding up to $800 million from Delphi for faulty parts the supplier had shipped while still owned by GM, several witnesses said.
Battenberg, who worked at GM for nearly 40 years before heading Delphi, said last week he was stunned by GM's tough tactics. He said GM's installation of J. Ignacio Lopez as purchasing czar in the early 1990s, and later Harold Kutner, "started the downfall of relations between GM and suppliers."
"Those guys were off base and everybody knew it," Battenberg said. "I think the jury saw that."
Battenberg said he's open to being a director for an auto company but has no concrete plans. Since the SEC sued him, he has been all but frozen out of the business world, remaining only on the boards of his church and neighborhood association.
"I'm not bitter," Battenberg said. "I'm just disappointed that the process allows this to happen. It takes a lot out of you and your family and your ability to work."