Ford and remain under federal investigation into union corruption

The Henry Ford II World Center, Ford Motor Company’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

James Leynse | Corbis | Getty Images

DETROIT – Ford Motor remains under federal investigation as part of a multi-year corruption probe into the Union Auto Workers Union, according to the lead prosecutor over the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider told CNBC that the UAW’s automaker and Ford unit remain targets in the probe, which first began with Fiat Chrysler and its counterpart.

“Ford and Fiat Chrysler, those investigations are still ongoing,” he said Thursday during a phone interview. “You have to look after everything.” Asked if the companies as well as their union departments remained under investigation, he said his team “certainly will not be limited to one or the other.”

Ford, in a statement, said: “As always, we would cooperate with all investigations.” Fiat Chrysler did not immediately respond for comment.

Schneider reaffirmed that General Motors is not a target of the ongoing investigation, which was made public in July 2017. Federal prosecutors, at the company’s request this spring, confirmed GM was not a target of the investigation at the time. Schneider said companies and individuals can make that request to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Schneider’s remarks come hours after prosecutors accused former UAW President Dennis Williams of decaying as part of the probe. Williams, 67, and at least six other senior UAW officials would have conspired to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in lavish entertainment and personal expenses such as golfing and hot dinners at the expense of UAW conferences.

The late CEO Sergio Marchionne (R) of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and President of United Auto Workers Union Dennis Williams shake hands at a news conference in Detroit, September 15, 2015.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Williams is the 15thth person to be taxed. All previous suspects, including three directors of Fiat Chrysler and Williams’ successor, Gary Jones, are guilty.

Schneider said the investigation could be completed by the end of the year, calling it a “great goal.”

“I do not know if it is possible, but I think this is what we need to push for,” said Schneider, whose term could end with the election of a new president.

Overall, Schneider says the case has discovered millions of dollars in misused funds intended to benefit UAW members. “It’s a shame. It’s real,” he said.

When the federal investigation was made public three years ago, it focused on a joint training center between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler. But it quickly expanded to probes in similar operations with GM and Ford.

The probe was expanded to look at top union leaders squandering union funds, money laundering and other illegal activities, which have led to discussions between Schneider’s office and UAW leaders regarding potential reforms.

In June, Gamble met with Schneider to discuss union reform, including possible use of an independent monitor. Schneider said that remains on the table. He declined to comment on specific details of the talks, characterizing them as “very nice progress” and “very productive”.

“These are important people who are committing federal crimes and we need to make sure that this union is completely reformed so that it serves the men and women who work there,” Schneider said.

A UAW spokesman declined to comment, saying the union has agreed not to comment on the discussions.