Judge approves pact with Honda dealer in U.S. bribery case Settlements also possible with 4 former executives

July 27, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A U.S. District judge yesterday approved a settlement for a Glen Burnie car dealer and indicated his intention to approve settlements for four former American Honda Motor Co. executives which would limit their liability in lawsuits against the carmaker in exchange for their testimony about a $15 million bribery scheme.

The lawsuits filed by nearly 50 Honda dealers across the country have been consolidated and are being heard in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The lawsuits allege that Honda's leadership ignored a scheme in which its executives solicited bribes and kickbacks from some dealers in the 1970s and 1980s in return for supplying them with cars.

The plaintiffs are trying to create a class-action case on behalf of more than 1,000 current and former Honda dealers. That class-action proposal is still pending before the judge.

The dealers who filed the suit allege they lost millions of dollars in sales because the cars they would have sold were diverted to dealers who paid the bribes and kickbacks.

Four former Honda executives, who have been convicted for their roles in the bribery scheme, are seeking to settle with the plaintiffs in exchange for the executives' testimony about the kickbacks and bribes. One Honda dealer accused of profiting from the scheme, William Schuiling, owner of Brown's Honda in Glen Burnie, was also seeking to settle in exchange for his testimony against Honda and a $1.2 million payment to the plaintiffs.

In yesterday's hearing, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz accepted the settlement with Schuiling. Motz also said he believed that settlement appeared to be fair to the dealers who filed the suit, but put off accepting the settlement until legal questions about the four executives' legal liability in the various states where individual lawsuits were filed can be resolved.

The four ex-executives from Honda -- David L. Pedersen, Frank Pisano, Robert Rivers and Beatrice Sikora -- have no assets and therefore will not be liable for monetary damages as part of the settlement.

Motz said yesterday that for cases with federal jurisdiction, the four executives would be liable for damages in the suit only if they concealed assets. But for the status of claims that fall under state law have yet to be determined.

Pub Date: 7/27/96

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