PARIS (Bloomberg) – A lawyer for Matthieu Tenenbaum, one of the three Renault SA executives accused of selling company secrets, says the company told his client to go quietly and “keep the money.” The carmaker denied making the offer.
Christian Husson, Renault's legal director, said Tenenbaum could resign and escape punishment during a meeting on Jan. 3, according to attorney Thibault de Montbrial. “He didn't even understand what the proposal meant,” De Montbrial said by telephone Thursday.
Renault spokeswoman Caroline de Gezelle said Husson had made no such suggestion. Tenenbaum “had the choice to resign but not to keep the money,” she said by phone.
Renault said on Jan. 5 it suspended three executives without pay after an ethics probe. Tenenbaum and the two other managers, upstream development chief Michel Balthazard and his deputy Bertrand Rochette, have denied selling EV secrets, contested their subsequent dismissals and filed criminal defamation claims.
Renault kept the government in the dark about the alleged leaks until they were reported by the French media, Industry Minister Eric Besson said Jan. 13. The carmaker filed espionage charges against persons unknown with Paris prosecutors the same day.
Renault's internal probe found that offshore accounts in their names had received payments traced to Chinese companies, a French official said Jan. 12. China rejected the allegations as “baseless and irresponsible.”
No comment from Balthazard, Rochette
Unlike most western automakers, Renault has no manufacturing capacity in China and has said it is seeking an opportunity to make its first Chinese factory investment with a local partner.
Renault said Tenenbaum could “keep the money” he was accused of receiving without telling him that he was suspected of spying, according to De Montbrial.
Lawyers for Balthazard and Rochette said they had no immediate comment on whether they had received similar offers during disciplinary interviews.
Renault confirmed the suspension of the three executives earlier this month before dismissing them. In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche published over the weekend, CEO Carlos Ghosn said he decided in late December to take the disciplinary action and alert legal authorities “without delay.”