Deposition of William Clay Ford, Jr.

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
INDIANAPOLIS DIVISION

In re BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE, INC.  

ATX, ATX II, AND WILDERNESS TIRES
C-B/S PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION ___________________________________

THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO ALL 
ACTIONS
___________________________________

V I D E O  D E P O S I T I O N O F

WITNESS: WILLIAM CLAY FORD, JR.
LOCATION: Ritz Carlton Hotel
Dearborn, Michigan

DATE: March 27-28, 2002
8:30 a.m.

BEFORE: MAGISTRATE JUDGE
V. SUE BLODGETT SHIELDS

 

Master File No.
IP 00-9373
MDL No. 1373

Hon. Sarah Evans Barker



* * *
BY MS. SPAGNOLI:
Q. Good morning, Mr. Ford.
A. Good morning.
Q. I'm Christine Spagnoli and I'm representing the
California state court plaintiffs and we're here
today to take your deposition involving the Ford
Explorer/Firestone tire tread separation accidents
and to get some information about your knowledge
concerning those events at Ford relating to those
accidents. Do you understand that?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Do you understand you're testifying under oath under
penalty of perjury?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. In November of 2001 after you took over as chairman
and CEO of Ford Motor Company you told an audience
that this terrible situation -- referring to the
events that led to the recall in August 2000 -- went
against everything you personally stood for.
Do you recall making that statement?
A. I don't, but I take your word for it that I did.
Q. You also said in that same speech that the situation
made you, Ford, more determined than ever to operate
in an open, transparent and accountable manner at
all times.
Do you recall making those remarks?
A. I do.
Q. Is that your position here today?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. You also said you recognize the public strongly
demands corporate responsibility and that a company
that aspires to be great like Ford accepts the
obligation to be a leader in accepting corporate
responsibility.
Do you recall making that statement?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Is that your position here today?
A. Yes, it is.

* * *
As you sit here today, sir, do you still
believe that the manner in which Ford Motor Company has
handled the entire issue of defective Firestone tires
has been consistent with the values established by your
great-grandfather and carried down from each CEO to
you?
MR. PLATT: Object to the form of the
question.
BY MR. BRANSON:
Q. You may answer.
A. I think the spirit in which this was undertaken is
reflective of that. I do think though, as I said many
times today, in retrospect I do wish we had acted
earlier.

* * *

Q. Let me ask you a question. Let's go back
for a moment before we go to this.
Is it still your testimony that the legacy
you got from Henry Ford that has gone through
each CEO of Ford Motor Company is that you
put customer safety before profit and that
safety is your number one priority at Ford
Motor Company?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. Let's look at this next
clip. What's the number?
MR. WHITE: 22.
MR. BRANSON: Which is exhibit number?
MR. PLATT: 1458.

[Video clip played - Testimony of CAS Executive Director
Clarence Ditlow before the Senate Commerce Committee
on September 12, 2000] Text of Testimony


VIDEO: "When it comes to concealing defects and
violation of federal and state laws, cover-up
is the culture at Ford Motor Company. By
concealing defects Ford does profit by
avoiding costly recalls it's vehicles pollute
and it's consumers ride at risk of highway
crashes, deaths and injuries. EPA has fined
Ford three times for emission violations and
one of those was a $3.5 million criminal fine
when Ford kept a double set of books much as
Mitsubishi did on emission problems."

QUESTION: Is there anything that Mr. Ditlow
testified to before Congress that was false
swearing to Congress?
ANSWER: I'm not aware.
MR. PLATT: Object to the form of the
question, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Overrule the objection.
THE WITNESS: That's the first time I've seen
it. I don't know in what context it was
given so I can't really answer the question.
QUESTION: Well, my question to you is are
the allegations he made against Ford Motor
Company true?
ANSWER: I don't know."

Q. Mr. Ford, is watching Mr. Ditlow's sworn testimony
before Congress today the first time you have heard of
the allegations Mr. Ditlow made against Ford?
A. Yes, it is, sir.

(Deposition Exhibit 2968 was marked.)

Q. I'll hand you this document marked Exhibit 2968, sir.
What does Exhibit 2968 appear to be?
A. It's a letter from Mr. Ditlow and Jason Kennedy (.PDF) to me,
November 24, 1999.
Q. Now that is a long time before Mr. Ditlow testified
before Congress at the Ford/Firestone hearings, isn't
it?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. In fact, it's about a year, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. I'll ask you to turn to page 6 of Mr. Ditlow's letter.
Actually let's go to page 5. One, two, would you read
the third paragraph down on page 5 of the letter you
received from Mr. Clarence Ditlow in November of 1999?
MR. PLATT: Do you remember this or do you
want to read it? Do you remember the letter?
THE WITNESS: I don't remember the letter.
MR. PLATT: Could he take a second and read
it so he has some idea what is being talked about here?


* * *

BY MR. BRANSON:
Q. You ready, sir?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that the first time you have ever read Mr. Ditlow's
letter?
A. I don't recall honestly.
Q. Is this the kind of letter that as the Chairman of Ford
Motor Company or the time it was sent to you as the new
CEO of Ford Motor Company that you would expect to
remember if you had read?
A. I wasn't the new CEO then, I was the Chairman.
Q. You were the new Chairman?
A. Yes, I was the new Chairman. My guess is I sent this
to the operating management since this was an operating
issue in terms of the head gasket issue. It wasn't
something that I was familiar with nor in a position to
fix as chairman. And I sent it, I presume, to
Mr. Nasser or to Miss Petrauskus.
Q. Well, it was written to you as the new Chairman of Ford
Motor Company and heir to one of the nation's most
prominent families and you were asked to exercise moral
and management leadership in bringing Ford Motor
Company back from the edge of lawlessness to make it a
model for corporate responsibility.
What did you do to achieve that request from
Mr. Clarence Ditlow?
MR. PLATT: Object to the form of the
question.
THE WITNESS: What did I do to what?
BY MR. BRANSON:
Q. To achieve Mr. Ditlow's request that as the new
Chairman of Ford Motor Company and heir to one of the
nations's most prominent families you exercised moral
and management leadership by bringing Ford Motor
Company back from the edge of lawlessness and make it a
model for corporate responsibility?
MR. PLATT: Object to the form of the
question.
Go ahead, you can answer it.
THE WITNESS: Certainly we are not there yet
and it's a journey. I don't know if you ever declare
that you are there. But I like to think that the
action we took in the case that we've been discussing
shows that we have been proactive.
On this particular letter, because it was
from Mr. Ditlow, and I know that we've had a long
history of going back and forth and in courts with him,
I felt it was best handled by somebody who was much
move knowledgeable than I was as Chairman. Because as
I say, I wasn't even an employee of the company then.
And I felt that operating management would be better
able to handle this than I could.
BY MR. BRANSON:
Q. Mr. Ditlow at the time he wrote you in November of 1999
made not only the same allegations he made under oath
to Congress, but additional allegations also, didn't
he?
A. Yes, apparently he did. I didn't read the whole thing
line by line.
Q. Is there any allegation against Ford Motor Company in
Mr. Ditlow's letter of November 24, 1999 that you would
like to say to this jury is just flat a falsehood and
untrue?
A. Honestly, I don't know. I'm not familiar with many of
these items.
Q. Mr. Ford, in April, on April 14 of 2000 in a speech to
the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible Economies
you said:
"When I became Chairman of Ford Motor Company
last year we began to form a very different
vision of the future. We have the
opportunity" -- we have a major -- "to have a
major positive impact on society."
Did you mean that, sir?
A. I still believe that.
Q. Does part of the different vision you have include Ford
Motor Company not violating the law, not secreting
documents, not destroying evidence in cases presented
before juries?
MR. PLATT: Object to the form of the
question, it's multiple and it's improper.
MR. BRANSON: You may answer.
THE WITNESS: I don't know to what you are
referring specifically.
BY MR. BRANSON:
Q. I'm just asking hypothetically at this point. Please
read the question back, does part of your vision
include that for Ford Motor Company?
MR. PLATT: Object to the form of the
question, it's improper.
(The requested portion of the record was
read by the Reporter.)
THE WITNESS: Certainly we don't intend to
violate the law and I'm not aware of the other
allegation that you've brought up.