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VW management, board back Lopez Production chief proclaims innocence


BONN, Germany -- After hours of intense discussion, Volkswagen's supervisory board and top management closed ranks yesterday in support of Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, the automaker's production chief, who is accused of industrial espionage by his former employer, General Motors Corp.

At an extraordinary meeting of Volkswagen's supervisory board, Mr. Lopez reiterated his version of the trade-secrets dispute, saying that he did not steal or take trade secrets with him when he jumped from GM to Volkswagen in March.

The meeting was held in Wolfsburg, site of the company's headquarters. The board has the power to hire and dismiss top management.

GM and its German subsidiary, Adam Opel, claim that Mr. Lopez and seven former GM employees who also moved to Volkswagen last March systematically gathered and stole proprietary information about parts, prices, new models and marketing strategies.

German prosecutors and the U.S. Justice Department are investigating GM's allegations, which Mr. Lopez and his colleagues deny.

After hearing Mr. Lopez's account of the dispute, Volkswagen's supervisory board gave its full backing to the Spanish executive, who has built a reputation as a ferocious cost-cutter.

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