FRANKFURT -- The lawyer representing fired Mercedes-Benz USA boss Ernst Lieb says his client misused no company funds and will continue to fight his October dismissal in a German court.
Lieb's lawyer, Stefan Naegele, said he plans to show that the 56-year-old executive was one of dozens of Mercedes executives who has been fired unfairly as part of parent Daimler AG's wide-reaching "zero tolerance" crackdown on ethics violations. The crackdown came after last year's court settlement of Daimler's global bribery scandal.
Lieb is scheduled to appear in court in Stuttgart in March to pursue his wrongful-dismissal lawsuit against the company and to challenge allegations contained in Daimler's response to that suit that he improperly used more than $100,000 in company funds to upgrade the Mercedes-owned home in Mahwah, New Jersey, where he lived.
During a Nov. 29 preliminary hearing on that suit, Daimler alleged that the money was used to pay for items such as a home theater, home gym, washer, dryer and built-in barbecue system.
Daimler fired Lieb in late October ending his five-year run as CEO.
"None of the accusations are justified. And we will prove that," Naegele said in a telephone interview last week.
Naegele says Daimler's facility management department ordered or approved some of the improvements to the home, which tax records show is valued at more than $1.4 million.
This month Mercedes named marketing chief Steve Cannon, 50, as Lieb's successor.
Naegele said a washer and dryer needed to be replaced because they were in disrepair and said the home gym was refurbished because of water damage.
Attempts to reach Lieb for comment were not successful.
Naegele said he represents several fired Daimler managers facing similar allegations – including the former country bosses of Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Taiwan as well as the former chief financial officer of Daimler Italy.
A Daimler spokesman confirmed that Naegele is involved in the cases with the country bosses and CFO. "We are aware of 12 cases pending, eight of which relate to senior executives. Persons were dismissed because of incorrect behavior in five of the 12 cases," the spokesman told Automotive News Europe.
The Daimler spokesman said last week that Lieb was fired because he "made incomplete, inaccurate and manipulative statements to the company and the responsible persons" during a company audit of spending by overseas executives.
Sources say Daimler has made a companywide effort to root out corruption after a global bribery scandal was settled last year. In April 2010, Daimler paid $185 million to settle criminal and civil charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The government alleged that from 1998 to 2008, improper payments of at least $56 million were made to officials in at least 22 countries to obtain government contracts for Daimler vehicles.