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US:Leach settles lawsuit against Ford

Leach settles lawsuit against Ford

By David Shepardson / The Detroit News

Martin Leach, the former president of Ford Motor Co.'s European division, formally settled his civil lawsuit against the company for at least $2.1 million on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed Leach's suit Friday, saying in a written order that he "has been advised by counsel that the (suit) has been settled." The settlement and the amount will not be made public, but the parties plan to release a joint statement through Ford late today.

The Detroit News reported earlier this month that the amount of the settlement was $2.1 million; a person familiar with the matter said the final settlement was higher than that, but declined to elaborate.

Leach initially sought 40.4 million in damages as part of the suit that claimed be was wrongfully terminated from the automaker in 2003.

The suit ends Leach's long relationship with Ford. An Englishman, he joined the company out of high school in 1975.

Ford had delayed a sworn deposition with CEO Bill Ford set for March 15 after it agreed to settlement talks led by former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer. Archer, a former president of the American Bar Association, declined to comment on his role in the settlement.

Leach and Ford reached a settlement in principle to the sometimes bitter dispute late on March 15; The Detroit News reported the settlement on March 18.

Thomas Hathaway, Leach's lawyer, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Leach, the former president and chief operating officer of Ford's European operations, left in August 2003 after he received an offer to become CEO of Italian automaker Fiat Auto SpA.

Ford claims Leach quit, invoking a clause in his contract that prohibited him from working for another carmaker if he left voluntarily.

Leach claims Ford fired him, allowing him to work for another auto company.

After Fiat learned Ford wouldn't allow him to join a rival, Fiat withdrew the job offer. In January 2004, Judge Borman sided with Leach and said Ford had fired him, freeing him to seek employment with another auto company.

Leach became Maserati's CEO on June 1, but Fiat -- Maserati's parent -- said on Feb. 21 it was replacing Leach.

Both sides received something in the settlement. Leach will avoid paying any more in attorneys' fees, which have already cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ford will avoid putting some of its most senior executives under oath and facing a trial that could be embarrassing and reveal much about the inner workings of the company. Leach had access to strategic information about Ford's operating plans. The automaker feared they would be disclosed in court.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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