Ford North American chief exits abruptly after behaviour probe

Mr Raj Nair, 53, has apologised, without elaborating. He was appointed to his current position last May.
Mr Raj Nair, 53, has apologised, without elaborating. He was appointed to his current position last May.

DETROIT • Ford Motor said on Wednesday that its president for North America, Mr Raj Nair, was leaving the company immediately after an internal investigation found his behaviour was "inconsistent with the company's code of conduct".

Ford did not give any details on what that behaviour entailed.

A company spokesman said the review was launched in the past few weeks after Ford received a report of inappropriate behaviour.

Mr Nair's exit comes after several high-profile business leaders and politicians have quit or been fired in the past year following accusations of sexual harassment, with the social media movement known as #MeToo pressing for more accountability in corporate cultures.

"We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration," said Ford chief executive Jim Hackett in a statement. "Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values."

As North American chief, Mr Nair was responsible for operations that generate about 90 per cent of Ford's global profits.

He apologised, without elaborating, saying in Ford's statement: "I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviours consistent with the principles that the company and I have always espoused."

The company is not investigating other executives for similar cases, a Ford spokesman said.

Mr Nair, 53, was appointed to his current position last May when Mr Hackett became CEO of the second-largest United States-based automaker.

He previously served as Ford's chief technical officer. He joined Ford in 1987, and rose through its manufacturing and engineering ranks to become head of global product development in 2015.

Mr Nair stands to lose about US$4.8 million (S$6.3 million) worth of Ford restricted shares he was granted in May 2017, which would have vested had he remained with the company until May 2020.

In August, Ford agreed to pay up to US$10.1 million to settle an investigation into sexual and racial harassment at two plants in Chicago.

The probe was conducted by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which said female and African-American employees had been subjected to sexual and racial harassment.

The EEOC found that the automaker had retaliated against employees who complained about the harassment or discrimination.

In an open letter after the New York Times published a widely read article on the matter, Mr Hackett wrote: "There is absolutely no room for harassment at Ford Motor Company."

"We don't want you here, and we will move you out for engaging in any behaviour like this," he wrote.

Ford has been working to effect a turnaround in its operations to improve profitability as its automotive profit margins have shrunk.

Year to date, its shares are down 14 per cent.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'Ford North American chief exits abruptly after behaviour probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe