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A second former employee of DaimlerChrysler AG has filed a federal lawsuit against the automaker, accusing it of firing her after it ignored reports of accounting fraud. Christine Holtzmann filed the whistleblower lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. She claimed she was fired in December 2003 after working 18 years at DaimlerChrysler and its predecessor unit in the U.S., Chrysler Corp. Holtzmann claims in court documents that during an 18-month period ending in September 2003, DaimlerChrysler neither conducted preliminary investigations nor disclosed a dozen complaints to the automaker’s audit committee. Holtzmann at the time was administrator of Chrysler’s Business Practices Office, which reviews allegations of improper business practices and is responsible for filing reports to DaimlerChrysler’s audit committee about its activities. “There were some high-level cases that were being kept in a separate file cabinet,” Laura Fentonmiller, a Royal Oak, Mich., lawyer representing Holtzmann, told The Detroit News for a Friday story. Some complaints were falsely backdated as closed years before they were actually opened, she said. “These cases were intentionally being removed from the radar,” Fentonmiller said. “Shareholders needed to know that.” The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Holtzmann’s allegations and those of a second former Chrysler employee, David Bazzetta. Bazzetta, a former company auditor fired in January after 21 years with the company, filed a similar whistleblower lawsuit Sept. 28. He claimed DaimlerChrysler maintained at least 40 secret bank accounts to bribe government officials in South America in violation of U.S. securities laws, and was fired after he notified senior company officials about the accounts. Chrysler declined to address questions about Holtzmann’s and Bazzetta’s claims, except to reiterate that it is cooperating with the SEC investigations. Shares of DaimlerChrysler fell 68 cents to close at $44.17 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, a few dollars off its 52-week high of $49.85. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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