Daimler AG (German pronunciation: [ˈdaɪmlɐ ʔaːˌɡeː] (listen); previously named Daimler-Benz and DaimlerChrysler), commonly known and referred to as Mercedes, is a German multinational automotive corporation, headquartered in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg. It is one of the world's leading car and truck manufacturers. Daimler-Benz was formed with the merger of Benz & Cie and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in 1926.The company was renamed DaimlerChrysler upon acquiring the American automobile manufacturer Chrysler Corporation in 1998, and was again renamed Daimler upon divestment of Chrysler in 2007.
Daimler AG central headquarters in Daimler complex in Stuttgart
|Founded||17 November 1998|
|Products||Automobiles, commercial vehicles|
|3.34 million (2019)|
|Revenue||€172.745 billion (2019)|
|€4.329 billion (2019)|
|€2.709 billion (2019)|
|Total assets||€302.438 billion (2019)|
|Total equity||€62.841 billion (2019)|
Number of employees
|298,655 (Dec. 31, 2019)|
|Footnotes / references|
As of 2014, Daimler owned or had shares in a number of car, bus, truck and motorcycle brands including Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG, Smart Automobile, Detroit Diesel, Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built Buses, Setra, BharatBenz, Mitsubishi Fuso, MV Agusta as well as shares in Denza, KAMAZ and BAIC Motor. The luxury Maybach brand was terminated at the end of 2012, but revived in April 2015 as "Mercedes-Maybach" versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and G-Class. In 2019, Daimler sold 3.3 million vehicles. By unit sales, Daimler is the thirteenth-largest car manufacturer and is the largest truck manufacturer in the world. Daimler provides financial services through its Daimler Financial Services arm. The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index. Daimler AG complex in Stuttgart include central company headquarters, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler car plants, Mercedes-Benz Museum and stadium Mercedes-Benz Arena.
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Daimler AG's origin is in an Agreement of Mutual Interest signed on 1 May 1924 between Benz & Cie (founded 1883 by Karl Benz) and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (founded 1890 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach). Both companies continued to manufacture their separate automobile and internal combustion engine marques until 28 June 1926, when Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft formally merged - becoming Daimler-Benz AG (Aktiengesellschaft) - and agreed that thereafter, all of the factories would use the brand name of "Mercedes-Benz" on their automobiles. The inclusion of the name Mercedes in the new brand name honored the most important model series of DMG automobiles, the Mercedes series, which were designed and built by Wilhelm Maybach. They derived their name from a 1900 engine named after the daughter of Emil Jellinek. Jellinek became one of DMG's directors in 1900, ordered a small number of motor racing cars built to his specifications by Maybach, stipulated that the engine must be named Daimler-Mercedes, and made the new automobile famous through motorsports. That race car later became known as the Mercedes 35 hp. The first of the series of production models bearing the name Mercedes had been produced by DMG in 1902. Jellinek left the DMG board of directors in 1909.
The name of Daimler as a marque of automobiles had been sold by DMG[dubious ] - following his death in 1900 - for use by other companies (Daimler Motor Company and Austro-Daimler). Since the new company, Daimler-Benz, would have created confusion and legal problems by including Daimler in its new brand name, it therefore used the name Mercedes to represent the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft interest. Karl Benz remained as a member of the board of directors of Daimler-Benz AG until his death in 1929.
Although Daimler-Benz is best known for its Mercedes-Benz automobile brand, during World War II, it also created a notable series of engines for German aircraft, tanks, and submarines. Its cars became the first choice of many Nazi, Fascist Italian and Japanese officials including Hermann Goring, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hirohito, who most notably used the Mercedes-Benz 770 luxury car. Daimler also produced parts for German arms, most notably barrels for Mauser Kar98k rifles. During World War II, Daimler-Benz employed the use of over 60,000 concentration camp prisoners and other forced laborers to build machinery. After the war, Daimler admitted to its links and coordination with the Nazi government.
In 1966, Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH merged with Mercedes-Benz Motorenbau Friedrichshafen GmbH to form Maybach Mercedes-Benz Motorenbau GmbH, under partial ownership by Daimler-Benz. The company is renamed Motoren und Turbinen-Union Friedrichshafen GmbH (MTU Friedrichshafen) in 1969.
In 1995, MTU Friedrichshafen became a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler-Benz.
In a so-called "Merger of Equals," or "Marriage made in Heaven", according to its then CEO and architect Jürgen E. Schrempp, Daimler-Benz AG and United States-based automobile manufacturer Chrysler Corporation, the smallest of the main three American automakers, merged in 1998 in an exchange of shares and formed DaimlerChrysler AG. Valued at US$38 billion, it was the world's largest ever cross-border deal.
The terms of the merger allowed Daimler-Benz's non-automotive businesses such as Daimler-Benz InterServices AG, "debis AG" for short, (created in 1989 to handle data processing, financial and insurance services, and real estate management for the Daimler group) to continue to pursue their respective strategies of expansion. debis AG reported revenues of $8.6 bn (DM 15.5 bn) in 1997.
The merger was contentious with investors launching lawsuits over whether the transaction was the 'merger of equals' that senior management claimed or actually amounted to a Daimler-Benz takeover of Chrysler. A class action investor lawsuit was settled in August 2003 for US$300 million while a suit by billionaire investor activist Kirk Kerkorian was dismissed on 7 April 2005. The transaction claimed the job of its architect, Chairman Jürgen E. Schrempp, who resigned at the end of 2005 in response to the fall of the company's share price following the transaction. The merger was also the subject of a book Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off With Chrysler, (2000) by Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz.
Another issue of contention is whether the merger delivered promised synergies and successfully integrated the two businesses. Martin H. Wiggers' concept of a platform strategy like the VW Group, was implemented only for a few models, so the synergy effects in development and production were too low. As late as 2002, DaimlerChrysler appeared to run two independent product lines. Later that year, the company launched products that appeared to integrate elements from both sides of the company, including the Chrysler Crossfire, which was based on the Mercedes SLK platform and utilized Mercedes's 3.2L V6, and the Dodge Sprinter/Freightliner Sprinter, a re-badged Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van.
In 2000, DaimlerChrysler acquired the Detroit Diesel Corporation and placed its on-highway division under Daimler Trucks North America. The off-highway division was placed under MTU Friedrichshafen to form MTU America. Detroit Diesel branding has been maintained by DTNA and MTU America. In 2005, MTU-Friedrichshafen was sold to the Swedish investment firm EQT Partners.
Daimler agreed to sell the Chrysler unit to Cerberus Capital Management in May 2007 for US$6 billion. Through most of its history, Chrysler has been the smallest of the "Big 3" U.S. automakers, but in January 2007, DaimlerChrysler, excluding its luxury Mercedes and Maybach lines, also outsold traditionally second place Ford, though behind General Motors and Toyota.
Chrysler reported losses of US$1.5 billion in 2006. It then announced plans to lay off 13,000 employees in mid-February 2007, close a major assembly plant and reduce production at other plants in order to restore profitability by 2008.
DaimlerChrysler had reportedly approached other carmakers and investment groups to sell Chrysler in early 2007. General Motors was reported to be a suitor, but on 3 August 2007, DaimlerChrysler completed the sale of Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital Management. The original agreement stated that Cerberus would take an 80.1 percent stake in the new company, Chrysler Holding LLC. DaimlerChrysler changed its name to Daimler AG and retained the remaining 19.9% stake in the separated Chrysler.
The terms saw Daimler pay Cerberus US$650 million to take Chrysler and associated liabilities off its hands. Of the US$7.4 billion purchase price, Cerberus Capital Management was to invest US$5 billion in Chrysler Holdings and US$1.05 billion in Chrysler's financial unit. The de-merged Daimler AG received US$1.35 billion directly from Cerberus but directly invested US$2 billion in Chrysler itself. Chrysler filed bankruptcy in 2009.
DC Aviation rose in 2007 from the previous DaimlerChrysler Aviation, an auxiliary of DaimlerChrysler AG, which was established in 1998.
In November 2014, Daimler announced it would acquire 25 percent of Italian motorcycle producer MV Agusta for an undisclosed fee. MV Holding acquired the 25 percent of MV Agusta back from Daimler in December 2017.
On 3 August 2015, Nokia announced that it had reached a deal to sell its Here digital maps division to a consortium of three German automakers—BMW, Daimler AG, and Volkswagen Group, for €2.8 billion. This was seen as an indication that the automakers were interested in automated cars.
In 2017, Daimler announced a series of acquisitions and partnerships with car startups focused on car sharing, in a move towards what it sees as the next generation of car ownership and usage. Part of its corporate strategy is to “transition from being an automobile manufacturer to a mobility services provider.”
In April 2017 it announced a partnership with Via, a New York-based ride-sharing app, to launch a new ride-sharing service across Europe. In September, it was announced that Daimler had led a fundraising round for car-sharing start up Turo, which is a platform that lets owners rent their vehicles out to other users. It also acquired Flinc, a German startup that has built an app for peer-to-peer-style carpooling, has invested in Storedot, Careem, Blacklane and FlixBus, and has acquired car2go and mytaxi.
Chinese automobile manufacturer Geely took a 9.69% stake in the company, through a subsidiary, in February 2018, making it the company's largest single shareholder. In September 2018, Daimler invested $155 million in Electric Bus Maker Proterra.
- Ola Källenius: Chairman of the Board as well as Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
- Renata Jungo Brüngger: Integrity and Legal Affairs.
- Britta Seeger: Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing and Sales.
- Wilfried Porth: Head of Human Resources, Labor Relations and Mercedes-Benz Vans
- Hubertus Troska: Greater China
- Harald Wilhelm: Head of Finance and Controlling as well as Head of Daimler Mobility
- Martin Daum: Head of Daimler Trucks and Buses
- Markus Schäfer (businessman): Head of Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, Procurement and Supplier Quality
According to the German Securities Trading Act (Wertpapierhandelsgesetz, WpHG) paragraph § 38 owner of rights like financial options to buy common shares with voting rights have to be reported in case certain threshold values are achieved. These owners must report the sum of owned common shares and potential rights to buy additional shares.
- Bank of America Corporation: 20.25%
- BlackRock Inc.: 5.09%
- Harris Associates L.P.: 4.93%
- Li Shufu with Tenaciou3 Prospect Investment Limited: 9.69%
- Morgan Stanley: 5.7%
- People's Republic of China: 5%
North Charleston expansionEdit
On 5 March 2015, Daimler AG announced a 1,200-job package to the North Charleston region for its van plant, to allow the company to start manufacturing Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans from scratch to meet demand in North America. From 2010, these vans were set up in Germany, then shipped to the United States partially disassembled for reassembly to avoid import tariffs. A Daimler official said that the Sprinter's popularity in North America was making that process less efficient. The North Charleston plant had been employing only 100 workers. The Sprinter is available on the U.S. market as a panel van, crew bus and chassis in several variants with three lengths and roof heights, six-cylinder diesel or gasoline engines. The Sprinter has been assembled and sold in the United States since 2001.
Daimler sells automobiles under the following brands worldwide:
- Mercedes-Benz Cars
- Daimler Trucks
- Daimler Buses
- Mercedes-Benz Vans
- Mercedes-Benz (vans group)
- Daimler Mobility
- Mercedes-Benz Bank
- Mercedes-Benz Financial
- Daimler Truck Financial
- Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (Builds engines for Formula 1 Racing)
The Daimler AG has a worldwide networks of production plants and research centers. The following list is a description of all locations worldwide that include a Daimler plant, including plants for Daimler subsidiaries EvoBus, Daimler Trucks North America, Detroit Diesel, Freightliner Trucks and Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation. The list excludes Daimler Financial Services locations.
|Affalterbach||Germany||AMG engines||1,210||78,231 m2 (842,070 sq ft)|
|Aikawa||Japan||Production of transmission parts||267||N/A|
|Aksaray||Turkey||Atego, Axor, Actros & Unimog
Research and development
|1,737||560,000 m2 (6,000,000 sq ft)|
|Beijing||China||C-Class, E-Class (long versions for Chinese market) & GLK & GLA,
Auman trucks (assembly)
Four-cylinder engines (production & assembly), six-cylinder engines (assembly)
|8,878||229,862 m2 (2,474,210 sq ft)|
|Bengaluru||India||Mercedes-Benz Research and Development||2900||N/A|
|Berlin||Germany||Various engines, components, transmission parts and fuel systems||2,538||501,502 m2 (5,398,120 sq ft)|
|Bremen||Germany||C-Class (sedan, estate & coupé), E-Class (coupé and convertible), SLK, SL, GLK||12,714||1,514,516 m2 (16,302,110 sq ft)|
|Buenos Aires||Argentina||Sprinter (body and assembly)
Assembly of chassis
|Charleston, South Carolina||USA||Sprinter (assembly)||104||N/A|
|Chennai||India||Trucks (LDT, MDT, HDT) under BharatBenz, Mercedes Benz and Fuso brands
Buses under BharatBenz
|2,540||1,600,000 m2 (17,000,000 sq ft)|
|Cleveland, North Carolina||USA||Freightliner class 8 truck models (Cascadia, Century Class S/T, Columbia, and Argosy (cab over models)).||1,837||N/A|
|Detroit, Michigan||USA||Engines, transmissions, axle assembly||2,164||N/A|
|Dortmund||Germany||Transit-, interurban-, and mobility buses and coaches||268||N/A|
|Düsseldorf||Germany||Sprinter (body and assembly)||6,571||688,000 m2 (7,410,000 sq ft)|
|East London||South Africa||C-Class (sedan)||2,743||603,600 m2 (6,497,000 sq ft)|
|Ebina||Japan||Fuso trucks, various bodies
|430||83,000 m2 (890,000 sq ft)|
|Fuzhou||China||Vito, Viano, Sprinter
(body and assembly)
|1,544||130,000 m2 (1,400,000 sq ft)|
|Gaffney, South Carolina||USA||Chassis for vans, school buses, shuttle buses and motor homes||542||N/A|
|Gaggenau||Germany||Manual and automatic transmissions, axles, torque converters & pressed parts||6,280||460,000 m2 (5,000,000 sq ft)|
|García||Mexico||Bus chassis assembly||4000||42,709 m2 (459,720 sq ft)|
|Gastonia, North Carolina||USA||Parts production||1,262||N/A|
|Hambach||France||Smart Fortwo and smart electric drive||822||695,000 m2 (7,480,000 sq ft)|
|Hamburg||Germany||Axles and axle components, steering columns, components for exhaust emission technology and lightweight structural parts||2,752||331,000 m2 (3,560,000 sq ft)|
|High Point, North Carolina||USA||School buses (assembly)
Research and development
|Holýšov||Czech Republic||Bus body components and -segments||360||N/A|
|Istanbul-Hoşdere||Turkey||Body shop, cathodic dip painting, paint shop
Transit- and interurban buses and coaches (assembly)
|Juiz de Fora||Brazil||Accelo & Actros
|Kassel||Germany||Axles, drive shafts & other components||2,820||435,873 m2 (4,691,700 sq ft)|
|Kawasaki||Japan||Fuso head office functions
(Research and development, production of engines, axles & transmissions;LDT, MDT, HDT)
|Kecskemét||Hungary||B-Class & CLA-Class||3,358||1,420,000 m2 (15,300,000 sq ft)|
|Kirchheim unter Teck||Germany||EvoBus corporate headquarters
|Kölleda||Germany||Three- and four-cylinder engines
Production of the M178 engine used in the AMG GT
|914||417,434 m2 (4,493,220 sq ft)|
|Ligny-en-Barrois||France||Transit buses & coaches
|Logan Township, New Jersey||USA||Fuso||N/A||N/A|
|Ludwigsfelde||Germany||Sprinter (body and assembly)||1,993||540,000 m2 (5,800,000 sq ft)|
|Mannheim||Germany||Transit-, intercity buses and coaches (Body shop, cathodic dip painting, assembly)||3,301||N/A|
|Mannheim||Germany||Foundry, engines (production & remanufacturing) and green technology engines)||5,113||898,654 m2 (9,673,030 sq ft)|
|Molsheim||France||Customization of special purpose trucks||527||N/A|
|Mount Holly, North Carolina||USA||Freightliner Business Class M2 assembly||1,460||N/A|
|Neu-Ulm||Germany||Transit- and interurban buses & coaches
(Paint shop and assembly)
|Portland, Oregon||USA||Daimler Trucks North America headquarters
Research and development
|Pune||India||C-Class, E-Class, GL-Class, M-Class, S-Class, Research and Development||717||N/A|
|Rastatt||Germany||A-Class, B-Class & GLA-Class||6,557||1,474,332 m2 (15,869,580 sq ft)|
|Sakura||Japan||Fuso proving ground & test track||384||N/A|
|Santiago Tianguistenco||Mexico||Freightliner assembly (Business Class M2, FLD Series, Century Class, Columbia & Coronado)||1,610||N/A|
|São Bernardo do Campo||Brazil||Entire Latin American truck product range
Engines, axles, transmissions, bus chassis
Research and development
|Sindelfingen||Germany||E-Class (sedan and estate), S-Class, CL-Class, CLS-Class, AMG GT
Research and development
|26,134[b]||2,955,944 m2 (31,817,520 sq ft)|
Engines, axles, transmissions & other components
Pre-commissioning foundry and forge
Research and development
|17,973||2,060,045 m2 (22,174,140 sq ft)|
|Toluca||Mexico||Refurbishing of engines, transmissions and other components||N/A||N/A|
|Toyama||Japan||Small, medium and large buses
|Tramagal||Portugal||Fuso Canter||307||39,900 m2 (429,000 sq ft)|
|Tuscaloosa, Alabama||USA||C-Class, M-Class, R-Class, GL-Class||3,127||3,803,240 m2 (40,937,700 sq ft)|
(body and assembly)
|3,293||600,000 m2 (6,500,000 sq ft)|
|Wanaherang, Gunung Putri, Bogor||Indonesia||Buses, Mercedes-Benz Axor, Mercedes-Benz C Class, Mercedes-Benz E Class, Mercedes-Benz GLC Class, Mercedes-Benz GLE Class, Mercedes-Benz GLS Class, Mercedes-Benz S Class (Assembly and exhaust parts production)||N/A||N/A|
|Wörth am Rhein||Germany||Actros, Antos, Arocs, Axor, Atego, Econic, Unimog, Zetros||11,741||N/A|
- As of December 2013
- Excluding employees in research and development
In 2015, Daimler held interests in the following companies:
- 89.29% Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation of Japan
- 50.1% Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation of Canada
- 50% Engine Holding, a joint venture with Rolls Royce Limited
- 50% Denza (Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co., Ltd)
- 25% MV Agusta of Italy
- 12% Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC)
- 15% KAMAZ of Russia
- 5% Aston Martin Lagonda
Until the end of 2011, the company had also held shares in McLaren Group.
Joint ventures and alliancesEdit
Beijing Automotive GroupEdit
In 2010 BYD Auto and Daimler AG created a new joint venture Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co., Ltd. In 2012 the new brand Denza was launched by the joint venture to specialise in electric cars.
Between 1990-2010 SsangYong partnered with Daimler-Benz. The deal was for SsangYong to develop an SUV with Mercedes-Benz technology. This was supposedly to allow SsangYong to gain footholds in new markets without having to build their own infrastructure (utilizing existing Mercedes-Benz networks) while giving Mercedes a competitor in the then-booming SUV market. This resulted in the Musso, which was sold first by Mercedes-Benz and later by SsangYong. SsangYong further benefited from this alliance, long after Daimler-Benz stopped selling the Musso, producing a badge engineered version of the Mercedes-Benz MB100, the Istana and using Daimler designs in many other models, including the second-generation Korando (engine and transmission), the Rexton (transmission), the Chairman H (chassis and transmission) and the Kyron (transmission).
Renault-Nissan and Daimler AllianceEdit
On 7 April 2010, Renault-Nissan executives, Carlos Ghosn and Dr. Dieter Zetsche announced a partnership between the three companies. The first fruits of the alliance in 2012 included engine sharing (Infiniti Q50 utilising Mercedes diesel engines) and a re-badged Renault Kangoo being sold as a Mercedes-Benz Citan.
Following trials in 2007 and then with Tesla in 2009, Daimler is building a production Smart electric drive car using Tesla's battery technology. Daimler temporarily invested in Tesla, saving it from bankruptcy. Daimler's joint venture with BYD has resulted in the creation of the new brand Denza.
In 2016, Daimler subsidiary ACCUMOTIVE announced their stationary batteries, to store up to 20 kWh of solar power for later use. Daimler plans to invest €1.5 billion in battery technology, and unveiled a factory in Kamenz in May 2017.
In September 2019, Daimler redirected its internal combustion engine development initiatives to focus on electric vehicle technologies, leaving electric propulsion rather less of an "alternative" and more the Daimler mainline. Their Research and Development department has developed a compostable battery that uses graphene-based organic cell chemistry. This means that no rare, toxic metals are needed for the battery, which makes it 100% recyclable.
Daimler has been involved with fuel cell vehicle development for some time, with a number of research and concept vehicles shown and demonstrated, the first being the 2002 Mercedes-Benz F-Cell car and the Mercedes-Benz Citaro hydrogen bus. In 2013, the Renault-Nissan/Daimler alliance was joined by Ford to further develop the fuel cell technology with an aim for production by 2017.
Mercedes-Benz launched its first passenger car model equipped with a hybrid drive system in summer 2009, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 400 Hybrid. and the Citaro Hybrid bus in 2007. Daimler Trucks and Mitusbishi Fuso have also trialed various hybrid models including the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid and Mitsubishi Fuso Aero Star Aero Star Eco Hybrid bus.
On 16 November 2009, Daimler and Aabar Investments purchased a 75.1% stake in Brawn GP (Daimler holding 45.1%). The company was rebranded as Mercedes GP with its base in Brackley, UK and Ross Brawn remaining team principal. The Brawn purchase led to Daimler selling back its stake in McLaren in stages, completed in 2011. Mercedes continued to provide sponsorship and engines to McLaren until 2014.
Prior to the 2011 season, Daimler and Aabar Investments purchased the remaining 24.9% stake owned by the team management in February 2011. In November 2012 Aabar Investments sold its remaining shares, leaving the team (rebranded as Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team) wholly Daimler-owned.
Bribery and corruptionEdit
On 1 April 2010, Daimler AG's German and Russian subsidiaries each pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery charges brought by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The parent company made a US$185 million settlement, but the company and its Chinese subsidiary remained subject to a two-year deferred prosecution agreement requiring further cooperation with regulators, adherence to internal controls and meeting other terms before final sentencing. Daimler would face harsher penalties should it fail to meet the terms of the agreement during the two-year period.
U.S. prosecutors accused key executives of Daimler, Daimler subsidiaries, and Daimler affiliates of illegally showering foreign officials with money and gifts between 1998 and 2008 to secure government contracts around the world. The investigation for the case revealed that Daimler improperly paid some $56 million in bribes related to more than 200 transactions in at least 22 countries (including China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Greece, Latvia, Serbia and Montenegro, Egypt and Nigeria, among other places) that, in return, awarded the company $1.9 billion in revenue and at least $91.4 million in illegal profits.
The SEC case was sparked in 2004 after David Bazzetta, a former auditor at then DaimlerChrysler Corp, filed a whistleblower complaint after he was fired for raising questions about bank accounts controlled by Mercedes-Benz units in South America. Bazzetta alleged that he learned in a July 2001 corporate audit executive committee meeting in Stuttgart that business units "continued to maintain secret bank accounts to bribe foreign government officials", though the company knew the practice violated U.S. laws.
In another attempt to silence Bazzetta, Daimler later offered to settle his termination of employment suit out of court and he eventually accepted a settlement. But Daimler's strategy with Bazzetta proved to be a failure as the U.S. criminal investigation for violating anti-bribery laws was already underway in what has been one of the most wide-ranging cases brought against a foreign corporation.
According to the charges, the bribes were frequently made by over-invoicing customers and paying the excess back to top government officials or their proxies. The bribes also took the form of luxury European vacations, armored Mercedes vehicles for high-ranking government officials and a birthday gift to the dictator of Turkmenistan, Turkmenbashi (Saparmurat Niyazov), including a golden box and 10,000 copies of his personal manifesto, Ruhnama, translated into German.
Investigators also found that the firm violated the terms of the United Nations' Oil-for-Food Programme with Iraq by giving kickbacks worth 10% of the contract values to officials within the Iraqi government, then led by Saddam Hussein. The SEC said the company made more than $4 million in profit from the sale of vehicles and spare parts in the corrupt oil-for-food deals.
U.S. prosecutors further alleged that some bribes were paid through shell companies based in the U.S. "In some cases Daimler wired these improper payments to U.S. bank accounts or to the foreign bank accounts of U.S. shell companies in order to transmit the bribe", the court papers said.
Prosecutors said that Daimler engaged in a "long-standing practice" of paying bribes, due in part to a corporate culture that encouraged the practice.
"Using offshore bank accounts, third-party agents and deceptive pricing practices, [Daimler AG, its subsidiaries and its affiliates] saw foreign bribery as a way of doing business," said Mythili Raman, a principal deputy in the Justice Department's criminal division.
As per the agreement with prosecutors, the two Daimler subsidiaries admitted to knowingly violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars companies and their officials from paying bribes to foreign officials to win business. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act applies to any company that lists its shares on U.S. stock exchanges. Daimler AG was listed with the symbol "DAI" on the New York Stock Exchange, giving the Justice Department jurisdiction over the German car maker's payments in countries around the globe. Judge Richard J. Leon of the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., approved the plea agreement and settlement, calling it a "just resolution".
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