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Former GM Exec Settles Spying Case

From Associated Press

Jose Ignacio Lopez, a former top General Motors executive in Europe who was involved in one of the auto industry’s biggest industrial espionage cases, was ordered Monday to pay $225,000 to charity in exchange for dropping criminal charges against him.

The state court in Darmstadt also levied smaller fines totaling $105,000 against three of Lopez’s former GM colleagues to settle the case.

The four managers were accused of taking important GM research, planning and sales documents with them when they jumped ship to Volkswagen in 1993.

VW agreed in January 1997 to pay GM $100 million and buy $1 billion in GM parts to settle a civil suit.

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But criminal charges of betraying “trade and company secrets” brought in 1996 were pending.

Proceedings were delayed by Lopez’s poor health. Lopez, who resigned from VW in November 1996, was hurt in a car accident in January.

A court spokeswoman said the court agreed to settle the case because it would have taken at least two years to try.

Legal questions such as whether a foreign-based firm could apply German laws against unfair competition and how to define a business secret in the auto industry complicated the matter, she said.

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