UAW not ‘actively cooperating’ in corruption investigation, U.S. attorney says

DETROIT — New tips about corruption within the UAW have come in to federal authorities in recent days, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Tuesday.

Schneider also said the UAW has not adequately cooperated with the yearslong federal investigation of the union, citing new evidence of wrongdoing by former President Gary Jones divulged by the union last month. Schneider contends that the union should have reported such evidence to his office proactively.

Schneider did not specify what his office had not previously known, but information released Nov. 21 by the union’s executive board in an effort to remove Jones and Region 5 Director Vance Pearson included a previously unreported allegation that Jones let his daughter use a UAW-rented townhouse in Palm Springs, Calif. Jones and Pearson have since resigned.

“What we really would want is cooperation from the UAW,” Schneider, the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in an interview. “When I’m reading for the first time in the newspaper about criminal activity that hasn’t been reported to the Justice Department, that’s not helpful cooperation.”

The union provided the evidence against Jones and Pearson to the U.S. attorney’s office at the same time it made the information public, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Schneider said he’s “still waiting to see” more cooperation from the UAW’s acting president, Rory Gamble.

“Active cooperation isn’t, ‘Ask us questions and we’ll answer them,’ ” he said. “Active cooperation is, ‘We want to help you; here’s what we know.’ In order for this to be a more successful relationship, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Schneider made his first public comments about the UAW investigation to The Detroit News last week and has since granted interviews with other media outlets. He said the interviews have led to a number of tips from the public that have produced new information in the case as recently as Tuesday.

Schneider wouldn’t discuss specifics of the case and walked back previous comments to the News saying the investigation was about halfway completed.

“It’s very difficult to predict in any criminal investigation where you are,” he told Automotive News. He declined to say whether additional charges were coming, explaining that “all options are on the table” when asked about the possibility of placing the union in federal receivership under racketeering charges.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg, in a statement, said it’s “disappointing that Mr. Schneider does not yet recognize the UAW’s sincere efforts at reform” and detailed a number of initiatives Gamble has announced.

“The UAW has, as recently as last week, expressed a willingness to further work with the government on the issues of concern. And we continue to cooperate in providing the government any and all records requested.”

The union has long contended it was cooperating in the corruption investigation. When the FBI in August raided the homes of Jones, former President Dennis Williams and others, the union said the searches were not necessary.

“We don’t authorize the issuance of search warrants unless they’re necessary,” Schneider said Tuesday. “We always prefer to have a cooperative arrangement. We do them when they have to be done.”

The scandal has resulted in charges against 13 people and 10 guilty pleas so far. Joe Ashton, a former General Motors board member and retired UAW vice president, is expected to plead guilty Wednesday on charges related to the probe.

Shortly after assuming the role of acting president Nov. 3, Gamble he said he was “confident” all remaining members of the union’s International Executive Board were clean and would not be swept up in the scandal

Schneider on Tuesday would not say whether any of the remaining 12 board members could be charged.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We will wait and see.”

The exposure of greed by some former union officials has been a black eye on the labor organization, which routinely supports the Democratic Party. Schneider, appointed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions under Republican President Donald Trump, said he had not received any political pressure on the UAW case, or any other matter.

“We have investigations involving Republicans and Democrats and we have investigations where we have no idea what their political party is because it’s not relevant,” Schneider said. “In this job, I’ve not felt any political pressure, at all. I haven’t felt any pressure from Washington, D.C. When Attorney General Sessions appointed me, he never told me what to do. I’ve been able to set my own priorities and they happen to mesh with the Justice Department in D.C.’s priorities.”

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