According to WSJ, “ Daimler AG dismissed the chief of its U.S. Mercedes-Benz operations this week over the company’s allegations he paid for personal expenditures with company money.”
Ernst Lieb, a 36-year company veteran who took over U.S. operations in 2006, was reportedly removed from his post after questions were raised about his compliance with the company’s expense and compliance policies. He remains at the company in an undisclosed role.
One alleged incident involved work performed at Lieb’s home in Montvale, N.J., which records show Mercedes had purchased for him to live in 2009.
Ever since Daimler settled a bribery investigation by the SEC last year, the Journal notes, “compliance matters have been a top priority” at the German luxury car maker.
The ouster of Mr. Lieb, a well-respected executive among Mercedes dealers and within the company, came as a surprise given Mercedes’s healthy gains in U.S. sales and market share during his tenure. Mr. Lieb had been credited with helping to bring new models to the U.S. and steering Mercedes to a leading position in U.S. luxury vehicle sales so far this year, outselling the longtime sales leader, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus and its German rival BMW AG.
Despite the high regard for Mr. Lieb’s performance as a manager, the auto maker has become very focused in compliance issues. That’s in part because of Daimler’s $185 million settlement last year of a long-running U.S. probe into allegations that it paid, in years past, tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure business overseas.