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Four Named in GM-VW Lawsuit to Seek Postponement Pending Criminal Case

December 4, 1996

DETROIT (AP) _ Four key defendants in General Motors’ corporate theft lawsuit against Volkswagen are seeking to have the case against them postponed until criminal charges in Germany are resolved.

Attorney Plato Cacheris told a judge in U.S. District Court Tuesday that he will file motions by Dec. 13 asking that the civil case be delayed against Jose Ignacio Lopez, Jose Manuel Gutierrez, Jorge Alvarez and Rosario Piazza.

All four are under investigation by German authorities in connection with the alleged theft of trade secrets from GM and its German subsidiary, Adam Opel AG. They also are subjects of a federal grand jury investigation in Detroit, Cacheris said.

No charges have been filed from either investigation, but Cacheris said the German case is expected ``to come to fruition″ by year’s end. Lopez’ lawyer in Frankfurt, Germany, said last month that he expected Lopez to be charged in that country.

GM alleges that Lopez, a former GM purchasing chief, conspired with top VW executives to steal trade secrets when Lopez defected to VW in 1993 with several other managers from the world’s largest automaker. GM seeks unspecified damages in the lawsuit, filed in March.

Volkswagen attorney James P. Denvir said outside court Tuesday that no negotiations were under way but that VW remained willing to discuss an out-of-court settlement.

GM and Opel publicly have taking a hard line with VW, insisting that any settlement would have to include a public apology, the dismissal of the remaining VW managers named in the lawsuit, and significant damages.

After Lopez resigned Friday from VW, GM and Opel issued a statement saying that they want a trial to determine damages ``more than ever.″

GM attorney John B. Quinn said Tuesday that the automaker was preparing to take the case to trial, but that a settlement was ``always possible.″

Tuesday’s hearing was to discuss procedural issues in the civil case. Judge Nancy Edmunds scheduled a Jan. 29 hearing on Cacheris’ motion to stay the proceedings for his clients.

If Edmunds grants the motion, proceedings against VW, its U.S. subsidiary and other company executives would continue. But Denvir said that because of the complexity of the case, it likely would not come to trial until 1998.

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