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DaimlerChrysler AG says federal investigators have rejected a former executive’s claims that he was fired for complaining the company used secret bank accounts to bribe government officials. In court papers filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the German-American automaker asks the court to dismiss two of six counts in a complaint filed earlier this year by David Bazzetta, who was fired in January 2004. The DaimlerChrysler motion includes a copy of a letter dated Nov. 15 from the U.S. Department of Labor saying that although Bazzetta had a strained relationship with his supervisor, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to qualify him a whistleblower. “Moreover, evidence supports respondent’s claim that even if the complainant had engaged in an activity protected by the statute, he would still have been dismissed due to an internal investigation of his actions that showed he violated company rules and policies,” the letter states. The automaker said in its filing that Bazzetta was fired for falsifying internal financial information and directing subordinates to do likewise. Bazzetta could not be reached for comment Monday. His lawyer, Sue Ellen Eisenberg, did not immediately return a call left at her law office. DaimlerChrysler acknowledged in October that Bazzetta’s whistleblower complaint filed with the Labor Department had prompted an investigation of the automaker by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC probe is ongoing, and the company has said it is cooperating. Last month, DaimlerChrysler was hit with a second whistleblower lawsuit. Christine Holtzman, who also filed her suit in federal court in Detroit, claims she was fired in December 2003 after working 18 years at DaimlerChrysler and its U.S. predecessor, Chrysler Corp. She accuses the company of ignoring numerous instances of internal accounting fraud. Bazzetta, a former executive in DaimlerChrysler’s corporate auditing department, claims his firing was retaliation for complaining to higher-ups about the existence of secret bank accounts to bribe foreign governments. He has said he learned of the accounts during a corporate audit committee meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2001. In its motion to dismiss, Chrysler says the “whistleblower” claim is not valid because Bazzetta alleges that top executives were aware of the accounts and that “the company planned to wind-down this practice.” “It is not protected ‘whistleblowing’ to repeat audit-related information that responsible corporate audit executives have told you they are addressing,” DaimlerChrysler’s motion, which was filed Thursday, states. The company has said Bazzetta’s lawsuit has no merit. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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