Fiat fails to get quick trial in Chrysler stake dispute

Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:13am EDT
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By Tom Hals

(Reuters) - Fiat SpA FIA.MI will have to wait longer than hoped to settle the price to buy out a minority shareholder of its Chrysler business after a judge on Monday set a September 2014 trial.

The Italian automaker had sought a May trial and had offered to fly executives to the United States for depositions to speed its lawsuit with the union trust that owns a 41.5 percent stake in Chrysler.

A five-day trial will begin September 29 and run through October 3 in Wilmington, Delaware, according to an order from Donald Parsons, the judge on the Delaware Court of Chancery who is overseeing the case.

At the conclusion of the trial, Parsons would usually be expected to rule within 90 days.

The judge essentially split the difference between the two sides. The United Auto Workers healthcare trust had asked for a January 2015 trial.

The UAW became Chrysler's second-largest shareholder when the automaker emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 and the union took a stake in place of future healthcare payments. The healthcare trust, known as VEBA, manages those healthcare benefits on behalf of the union.

In July, Parsons ruled in favor of Fiat on central legal positions in the dispute, but stopped short of ordering the trust to sell 54,154 Chrysler shares for $139.7 million, as Fiat sought.

The trust put the value of those shares at $343.1 million.   Continued...

A company logo is seen on a Fiat car displayed on media day at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile, September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann