A Fremont-Newark institution from 1980-2009.

SIGNER BUICK-CADILLAC HISTORY:

THE ENGINEERING OF DEMISE         

 

By Don Signer, President                                 

Notes: 

  • I suggest that readers first read the overview on the Home Page prior to reading this Dealership History in order to aid the understanding of the complex and bizarre history.
  • As the complex story spans more than two decades and contains many “subplots,” I recommend reviewing the History Timeline (Excel file), (PDF file) before reading the Dealership History.  Printing a copy and keeping it at hand would be helpful.  
  • The “Dealership History” below is a chronological summary of events, most of which are discussed in more detail in the corresponding link in the right column, which contains “Expanded Details,” or “chapters” in the story.  Links to Expanded Details are also included within the Dealership History narrative, available by clicking on blue text.   
  • As the IRS “subplot” of my story has become a story in itself that continues today with the seemingly fraudulent Treasury Department cover-up,  I separated the IRS audit related links from the others in the right column.  In the story below, for quick identification of IRS and related items, I have changed the date in those paragraphs to red, starting with “(2005 July #3).”
  • The text in the ”Expanded Details” sections contain links to supporting documents, available by clicking on blue text.  If PDF files are selected for certain charts, the charts can be rotated to horizontal by entering “Ctrl” and “Shift” and “+” simultaneously. 
  • While there is a long history of unbelievable GM actions to describe, I have tried to keep the story on this Dealership History page as brief as possible.  I have also highlighted in bold text key sentences to provide a way to read through more quickly.
  • Please see Terms of Use. 

As noted in the Home Page on this website, I closed Signer Buick-Cadillac in Newark, California, on November 30, 2009, as a result of GM’s elimination of approximately 1,350 dealers when it filed bankruptcy in 2009.  While GM’s U. S. Treasury-supported confiscation of my franchises and consequential destruction of everything I had ever worked for is something one wouldn’t think could happen in America, it is only a footnote in the final chapter of GM’s adversarial actions with me for nearly two decades.  My story is one of GM’s imposing its illogical business decisions on a career-long GM dealer, accompanied by its long-term engineering of that dealer’s demise for its own seriously misguided purposes.  Adding to the unconscionable nature of GM’s actions, my dealership was something that was far more than a job to me – it was my creation I built from scratch in 1980.  As I have no family, my business was my family, my identity in the community, my primary source of self-esteem, and what I once thought would be my financial security

After two decades of excellent relations with General Motors, in the early 1990′s that began to change when I offered to build a new facility in a major auto mall.  At that time GM began imposing misguided business decisions upon me, followed by malicious actions that demonstrated a total lack of good faith in recent years.  GM thus violated the trust that, out of necessity inherent in a dealer/factory relationship, I had placed in it.  This trust placed in GM includes its business decisions that affect me, as well as its providing my dealership a product portfolio to make a reasonable return on my invest­ment of capital and years of dedicated long hours.  As there have been literally dozens of GM and GMAC employees involved in the various actions against me over a period of nearly two decades, I feel that my exper­ience clearly illustrates an arrogance deeply embedded in the GM corporate culture.  As GM’s and GMAC’s actions with me appear to be representative of their ways of doing business, it can be safely assumed that they mark merely the tip of an ugly iceberg of evil actions in all aspects of the businesses.  After reading what follows, I believe that any U. S. taxpayer/creditor will understand this culture that led GM into bankruptcy.

In the following chronological narrative, most bullet point items are discussed in more detail in an “Expanded Details” section, accessible through corresponding links in the right column of the website.  As many of the facts I state are so bizarre as to possibly be unbelievable, the Expanded Details contain lilnks to supporting documents for most statements I make.  Any opinions I state are my own, but are based on what I believe to be solid evidence.  Again, I recommend printing a copy of the History Timeline (Excel file)  (PDF file) and keeping it at hand while reading about GM’s frequently-changing and often senseless and damaging actions.

Following is the story of my career dedicated to General Motors products.

  • (1970-1980) I worked at my family’s Corvallis, Oregon, Buick-Cadillac-GMC dealership from the time my father purchased it on December 1, 1970.  Following his sudden passing on December 23, my mother and I retained the dealership, where I worked while I simultaneously completed my college education.  As the years progressed, I desired to return to the San Francisco Bay Area where my family had lived prior to our relocation to Oregon, and where my father had been employed by Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors.  In pursuit of my goal, after years of excellent relations with General Motors, in October 1979 I applied for the Buick franchise in Fremont, California, where Buick desired to establish new representation.
  • (1980) In December 1979, as a result of my excellent track record in Corvallis, the Buick San Francisco Zone Manager issued me a Letter of Intent that provided for my becoming Fremont, California’s first ever Buick dealer.  The Letter gave me a year to meet various criteria, including a new facility I had constructed while I continued to work at the Oregon dealership.  To accomplish my goal, I committed all of my accumulated capital and a year of my life in the creation of the new facility and business, and opened the new dealership in November 1980 at age 29.  I initially had a 50% partner who acted as sales manager.  My mother continued to operate the Corvallis GM dealer­ship until she sold it and retired in 2003.

1983: GM Vice-President (later President) Lloyd Reuss with Don Signer in Fremont showroom. Lloyd is father of current GM President Mark Reuss.

  • (1981-1986) In our first year, we immediately became the number three volume Buick dealer in the seventeen dealer Bay Area.  In late 1981, my partner pursued the opening of a Lincoln-Mercury dealership on his own.  I bought him out of my company in February 1982, after which he opened Hayward Lincoln-Mercury.  The recession year 1982 was a difficult one that caused me many sleepless nights.  In 1983 and 1984, sales rebounded  and my dealership maintained its third place sales leadership and made strong profits, drawing recognition from Buick personnel.  1985 and 1986 saw Buick national sales drop drastically, and ours dropped by about a third, although we maintained our leadership position.
  • (1987) In June 1987, Fremont auto dealers for all franchises except two joined landowner Catellus and the City of Fremont in the development of the Fremont Auto Mall.  The two franchises not represented were Ford, which was already destined for a new facility, and Chevrolet.  This large Auto Mall project was complicated and challenging, but the benefit to all parties motivated all to commit the time and money necessary to complete the project.  In the years to come, I actively participated and attended dozens of Auto Mall meetings.  I also notified Cadillac of the Auto Mall project, urging it to award me its franchise so I could plan for a proper size property and facility.  Since 1984, I had expressed my desire to become Cadillac’s first Fremont dealer, to which its Zone Manager responded that, due to my Buick dealership’s excellent sales and customer satisfaction history, I would be a candidate when Cadillac was ready to establish a dealer in Fremont.
  • (1988) Between 1984 and 1987, Buick sales nationally had fallen drastically, with my sales correspondingly falling 60% from 908 to 365, and thus threatened my survival.  During that time, Buick added a new dealer in nearby Pleasanton, which cut into my business and contributed to my dealership’s sales decline.  At the same time, the Fremont Auto Mall creation project continued, necessitating my ongoing contribution of time and money.  In late 1987, the Subaru-Saab dealer in nearby San Leandro approached me about buying his family’s franchises.  As I needed something to fill the void created by the Buick sales collapse, I urged Cadillac to award me its franchise quickly.  Cadillac responded that it would not be opening Fremont for some time, and if I needed the extra sales that I should take the two import lines.  As such, I paid the Subaru-Saab dealer family for the franchises, and in March 1988 added them to my Buick line with the support of Buick.
  • (1989) While I continued to work with Fremont dealers in developing the Fremont Auto Mall, I maintained contact with Cadillac.  While Cadillac would have preferred an exclusive dealership without any other brands, it realized that the low volume luxury brand could not stand on its own in the Fremont market.  Finally, in October 1989, Cadillac issued me a Letter of Intent to award me its Dealer Agreement when I would relocate to the Fremont Auto Mall, a requirement stipulated in the letter.
  • (1990 March) As the nearly three years of Auto Mall negotiations progressed between the Fremont dealers, land owner Catellus, and the City of Fremont, GM refused financing for me, as well as the other two participating GM dealers (Pontiac-GMC and Oldsmobile.)  This was mysterious in light of Cadillac’s Letter of Intent requiring my relocation there, as well as GM’s normal enthusiasm for new facilities.  In an offer of assistance, Buick San Francisco Zone Manager Chris Wolf pursued the issue with GM on behalf of us three dealers.  As such, he assembled fifteen GM employees from vehicle, financing, and real estate divisions in a March 21, 1990 meeting with the Auto Mall Project Manager, the Fremont City Manager, and us three GM dealers.  On March 28, Mr. Wolf informed me that the meeting had been unsuccessful – GM would not finance the Auto Mall facilities I then appealed to Buick’s General Manager, which resulted in no assistance.  Both Mr. Wolf and Cadillac San Francisco Zone Manager Frank Liebgott shared my bewilderment at GM’s refusal to finance the highly desirable Fremont Auto Mall facility that Cadillac required of me.  As a result of GM’s refusal of financing, the Pontiac-GMC and Oldsmobile dealers withdrew from the Auto Mall project.
  • (1990 May) On May 10, 1990, after three years of intense efforts by multiple parties, the Fremont Auto Mall project came to fruition in a signing ceremony attended by all parties: the dealers, Catellus, and the Fremont Mayor and City Council Members.  Dealers signed purchase and tri-party agreements, and paid down payments toward their respective properties, for which escrow would be closed in August.  While I still had not secured financing, I signed the agreements and paid the down payment, as I had spent three years of my life and considerable funds in administrative costs to date toward the worthwhile project, which resulted in two file drawers of records.  Additionally, Cadillac required that I relocate to the Auto Mall.
  • (1990 June) On June 13,1990, in recognition of my exhaustive good faith efforts toward the Auto Mall project, Cadillac awarded me a Dealer Agreement to sell and service Cadillacs along with Buick in my existing facility, with the require­ment that I move to the Fremont Auto Mall on a specified timetable.  As Cadillac also required that my dealership be exclusively GM, I reluctantly gave up the Subaru and Saab franchises.
  • (1990 August) All participating Fremont dealers except me completed the purchases of their Auto Mall properties, most of which were financed by the dealers’ respective manufacturers.  As I was still unable to obtain financing, Catellus created a special plan for me to pay additional money in August for the option to remain in the project until I could obtain financing.  This brought my Fremont Auto Mall investment to date to about $160,000.
  • (1990 October-December) As a result of dealers for all Fremont franchises, except Ford division and all GM divisions, having bought property in the Auto Mall, Cadillac Zone Manager Frank Liebgott took action about GM’s conspicuous absence.  Angered by GM’s refusal to finance the mutually beneficial Fremont Auto Mall project he had required of me, he told GM’s Project 2000 Director, “If you want to be there (GM dealers in the old locations) after the Mall opens, then fine.”  His request drew no positive response.
  • (1991 Jan-May): In late 1990 the owner of Fremont’s DiGiulio Pontiac-GMC approached me about his family’s desire to sell their franchises.  Over the months that followed, we nego­tiated a buy-sell agreement, which was finalized in April 1991 and submitted to GM for approval My purchase included a proposal to relocate those two brands, plus my Buick and Cadillac brands, to the Fremont Auto Mall in a new facility with separate showrooms and sales staffs.   In addition to the 30-page Asset Purchase Agreement (Buy-Sell), I submitted a package of extensive documen­tation substantiating the benefits of the project to all parties.  Pontiac disapproved DiGiulio’s sale to me, citing four GM brands in one operation, thus voiding my purchase.  This was despite my proposal to have separate showrooms and sales staffs for Pontiac-GMC.[1]
  • (1991) At some point in mid-1991, rumors surfaced about GM’s secret pursuit of a site in nearby Newark for relocation of its dealers.  In November, the Fremont City Manager wrote letters to GM executives expressing displeasure about its reported actions.  GM’s real estate representative Roch McClain responded that GM was considering Newark, but hadn’t ruled out the Fremont Auto Mall.  Documentation I obtained years later confirmed that GM had secret discussions with the City of Newark in February 1991, and other information indicated that GM’s subversive Newark pursuit could have begun in 1989.  This secret project, even withheld from the Buick and Cadillac Zone Managers until 1991, presumably was the reason for GM’s mysteriously senseless denial of Auto Mall financing, and contributed to Pontiac’s disapproving of my DiGiulio purchase/Auto Mall relocation.
  • (1992) In early 1992, Bob Gee and financial partner Dee Barnes purchased DiGiulio Pontiac-GMC and Moran Oldsmobile, and then combined them.  As a condition of GM’s approval of the purchase, GM required that Mr. Gee build and relocate to a new facility in Newark.
  • (1992 April) In April 1992, new Buick Zone Manager Tom Garove formally informed me, verbally and in writing, that GM wished for me to relocate to Newark instead of to the Fremont Auto Mall.  I responded with my continued commit­ment to the Auto Mall and rejection of GM’s absurd maverick plan.  As I had now secured financing from land seller Catellus, I planned to move forward with the Auto Mall facility when Hank Torian, the largest participating dealer with six franchises, including Honda and Toyota, began construction there.  While the dealers had owned Auto Mall property since August 1990, Mr. Torian and most others delayed construction due to various factors mostly related to a dismal economy.  As the year pro­gressed, GM increased its pressure on me to move to Newark.  For supporting documents and additional information, see Expanded Details: “(1987-1992) Cadillac Franchise Pursuit; Signer Co-Develops Fremont Auto Mall and Buys DiGiulio Pontiac-GMC. GM Denies Both.”
  • (1993 early) On January 28, 1993, Cadillac sent me a letter stating that if I did not relocate on a specified timetable, it would terminate my Cadillac Dealer Agreement, which would put me out of business.  In February 1993, GM presented its Project 2000 Plan to its dealers, which in part revealed its “experts’” determination of where each dealer is to be located, which in my case was “near NewPark Mall” in Newark.   On March 10, five GM representatives met with me and, in a nasty and belittling manner, placed merciless pressure on me to agree to its Newark plan, and reminded me of its threat to end my Cadillac franchise.  GM offered financing for Newark, but not the Fremont Auto Mall.
  • (1993 mid) In late March 1993, Catellus offered me the possibility of free land in the Auto Mall by way of enhanced Fremont tax incentives.  GM didn’t care, and required that I pay $1,425,000 for its Newark property (bare land,) where it told me I could earn City sales tax rebates of approximately $525,000 over twenty years to reduce the effective net cost.  GM’s threats left me no viable choice but to succumb to its pressure to relocate to Newark, as well as accept GM’s plan of a new Motors Holding Division (MHD)-formed corporation, also against my will.  MHD is a GM dealer financing division that makes GM the dealer’s business partner until the dealer buys it out through profits.  Among other things, the form­ation of the new corporation caused me to forfeit significant tax benefits in my original corporation.  On July 14, 1993, GM held yet another 5-man intimidation meeting to firm up my agreement to its Newark plan.  On August 20, an article appeared in the Fremont Argus announcing my agreement to relocate to Newark.  After reading the article, Fremont Mayor Bill Ball sent a scathing 6-page letter to GM President Jack Smith about the way GM had mistreated the City of Fremont in regard to the Fremont Auto Mall.  The letter revealed that on July 7, 1993, a GM representative admitted that “GM people” had advised MHD and GMAC not to finance any moves to the Fremont Auto Mall, apparently as early as 1989.  Thus, my investment of many years and $160,000 on the Auto Mall never had a chance of bearing fruit, unbeknownst to me, as well as to the Buick and Cadillac Zone Managers.
  • (1994-1995) In May 1994, Bob Gee relocated Fremont Pontiac-Olds-GMC (“P-O-G”) to a new facility he constructed in Newark, at which time he became GM’s partner in the MHD-financed project.  I began construction of my Newark facility in fall 1994, and then relocated there in July 1995, at which time I also became GM’s partner in the MHD-financed project.  For supporting documents and additional information, see Expanded Details: “(1993-1995) GM Strong-Arms Signer to Newark, Signer Builds There.”
  • (1995-1996) In October 1995, GM approached me about trading my Buick franchise for the rapidly declining Olds­mobile franchise from Fremont P-O-G (Pontiac-Olds-GMC,) in order to achieve its desired Buick-Pontiac-GMC (“B-P-G”) channeling.  For months, GM repeatedly met with me to attempt to persuade me to accept this ludicrous proposal, but gave up in July 1996.  See Expanded Details: ”(1995-1996) GM Asks Signer to Trade Buick for Doomed Olds Franchise.”
  • (1997-1998) After GM’s ludicrous Buick/Olds trade proposal failed, it developed a “Plan Bto take control of both Bob Gee’s and my dealerships using an intricate symphony of conspired acts.  Throughout 1997, Mr. Gee’s dealership encountered many mysterious, unprecedented GM and GMAC disruptive events, and then at the end of the year MHD abruptly removed Mr. Gee.  Mr. Gee filed suit, a settlement was agreed to, and his final day was January 1, 1998.  In eerie “coincidence,” on January 2, 1998, four union-hired outside picketers appeared in front of my unionized dealer­ship.  In mid-January, MHD turned control of Fremont P-O-G to hand-selected dealer Steve Jackson, a member of GM’s Minority Dealer Development Program.  On Mr. Jackson’s first day, MHD Branch Manager Ron McCants informed him that, in the two weeks since Mr. Gee’s departure, dealer­ship employees had signed union cards indicating interest in union­izing the non-union shop.
  • (1998 early) On February 5, 1998, as picketers marched out front, GM Dealer Network Development Area Manager Dave Bott attempted to persuade me to sell to GM.  Mr. Bott stated that the situation was just a “coincidence” with GM’s San Fernando Valley project, an initiative in which GM was taking factory control of its dealerships there.  On April 7, he repeated his suggestion I sell.  Each time Mr. Bott approached me about selling, I rejected it, and expressed interest in acquiring Fremont P-O-G, and to then trade Buick with Olds as GM desired.  He declined my proposals.
  • (1998 mid) On August 7, 1998, Signer employees petitioned the NLRB for a union decertification election, but the picketers surprisingly continued.  About the same time, Steve Jackson requested, and was granted, a transfer out of Newark to a GM dealership in Folsom, California.  MHD then appointed GM Minority Dealer Development member Eleanor Felbaum to manage the Newark dealership on an interim basis.  Now that GM’s Newark plan had failed, I restated to Mr. Bott my offer to acquire the dealership.  He responded that he would support my request, and to write him a letter, which he would forward to Detroit.  I did so, and faxed the letter on August 27.  In eerie “coincidence,” on August 31, 1998, the picketers ended after 8 months.
  • (1998 mid): Within three days after the pickets ended, 71% of my union employees peti­tioned out their union, thus precluding the need for NLRB decertification election.  On September 15, formerly non-union Fremont P-O-G employees overwhelmingly voted in the union after an 8-month union organizing campaign at the dealer­ship.  It later became clear in my mind that the union picketing was part of a bizarre pre-arranged GM/union agreement whereby GM allowed the union into the dealership it seized from Mr. Gee in exchange for the union’s picketing of my dealership.  Thus it is my strong opinion that the picketing was a deplorable harassment action initiated by GM.  Assuming this is correct, while the picketers successfully damaged me, GM’s kamikaze-like plan backfired when I survived and its Steve Jackson plan failed.
  • (1998 late) On September 21, 1998, Mr. Bott sent a correspondence to his Detroit-based manager supporting the merits of my acquisition proposal, as well as reporting of another dealer’s proposal.  In October, Mr. Bott responded to me that Detroit had declined my request to acquire Fremont P-O-G without stating a reason.  In a revival of GM’s exit-inducing effort, December 1998 Mr. Bott presented me the profile of an undisclosed troubled GM dealership he proposed to trade for mine.  For supporting documents and additional information, see Expanded Details: (1997-1998) GM Steals Pontiac-Olds-GMC, Plots Signer Exit; Signer Requests Pontiac-Olds-GMC, GM Rejects.”
  • (1999 December) Dave Bott’s successor approached me with yet another absurd Buick/Olds Newark trade proposal, exactly one year before GM’s December 2000 announcement of the closure of Oldsmobile Division.
  • (1999) GM created “General Motors Retail Holdings” (GMRH) to take retail control of 130 markets in the United States, apparently patterned after GM’s San Fernando Valley market takeover.  GMRH was immediately met with intense GM dealer opposition that led to strengthened legislation against such actions.
  • (2000 January) In apparent recognition of opposition and new laws, GM announced that it was scrapping its GMRH initiative.
  • (2000 March) GM/MHD appointed yet another Fremont P-O-G dealer, Ken Okenquist.  Mr. Okenquist thus became the fourth dealer or interim manager in 27 months, including the ousted Bob Gee.  GM included the Newark store in an apparent MHD-funded package with two other Bay Area B-P-G stores it had assigned to Mr. Okenquist.  In addition, he retained his existing San Jose B-P-G store.  Along with his appointment, Mr. Okenquist succeeded Steve Jackson as GM’s intended recipient of my franchises when GM would finally be able to induce my exit.  See Expanded Details, “(1999-2000) The Rise and Fall of GM Retail Holdings; GM appoints 3rd Pontiac-Olds-GMC Dealer.”
  • (2000 November) I bought out MHD’s remaining shares in my corporation, giving me 100% ownership of stock and facility.
  • (2000 December) GM announces the long anticipated closure of Oldsmobile Division in a three-year phase out. 
  • (2000-2002) Following years of GM’s pressures on me, the years from 1999 – 2002 were relatively calm.  Among the possible reasons for that were GM’s reorganization in 1999 that disbanded the group of local co-conspirators, the failure of GMRH and new dealer protection laws resulting from it and San Fernando Valley backlash, and my election to Cadillac National Dealer Council from 1999 to 2001.  See Expanded Details, “(1999-2002) A Brief Period of Relative Peace.”
  • (2003-2004) In late 2003, due to the continuing national decline of Buick sales[2] and GM’s aggressive Buick-Pontiac-GMC channeling pursuit, I approached GM once again about my continued interest in acquiring Pontiac-GMC.  At GM’s suggestion, I met with Mr. Okenquist, who indicated that his MHD Board of Directors (GM employees) probably wouldn’t allow the sale to me.  Since it was really GM’s decision, in early 2004 I recontacted GM about assisting me in acquiring Pontiac-GMC.  My viability had become even more challenging by Fremont’s high concentration of high-income GM-shunning Asians.  As Fremont P-G was off-channel without Buick, and Mr. Okenquist had three other B-P-G dealerships, my latest acquisition proposal would make sense for all parties, as had my previous two proposals.  Northern California B-P-G Zone Manager Susan Keenehan (formerly Koerber) would not support my efforts, reflective of her 1997-1998 GM/MHD exit inducement team position.  Even if I somehow reached agreement with GM’s favored Mr. Okenquist, it was clear that Ms. Keenehan and others at GM would fight me every inch of the way, thus making further pursuit futile.  Interestingly, in an apples-to-apples comparison, my dealership’s Buick sales were consistently higher than Mr. Okenquist’s Buick sales in his three Buick dealerships.  However, since he had GMC truck lines producing most of his volume, and my other line was low volume Cadillac, Ms. Keenehan considered Mr. Okenquist to be a “stronger dealer.”  (Mr. Okenquist closed his dealerships in financial failure in January 2009, five months before GM filed bankruptcy.)
  • (2004 Fall) For several months in 2004, next door neighbor dealer Bob Lewis and his son approached me multiple times about their desire to rent my building.  I repeatedly told them I wasn’t interested.  However, with Buick sales continuing their ongoing decline, I felt I should talk to GM once again about help in acquiring Pontiac-GMC, or explore the option of GM buying my franchises as it had wanted to do since 1998.  I met with GM Network Planners Herman Caruthers and Jim Gentry once in October, and once in November to discuss the options in general.  They sustained GM’s refusal to support me, but restated GM’s eagerness to buy my franchises.  After the two meetings I decided I did not wish to part with the business that had always been my life, while at the same time Bob Lewis’s interest in my facility diminished with his declining business level.
  • (2005 April) During late 2004 and the first few months of 2005, several GM employees repeatedly encouraged me to sell, to which I replied as I had in the past that I was not interested.  In January and February, both Herman Caruthers and Susan Keenehan attempted to arrange for Jim Gentry to meet with me, obviously about selling.  I declined, and requested that they not bring the subject up again.   Following GM’s unsuc­cessful attempts, on April 12, 2005, Ms. Keenehan and Western Regional Sales Manager Maurice Williams visited me, at which time I confirmed once again that I did not wish to sell.  On April 13, unbeknownst to me, a secret e-mail sequence involving four GM employees reported of the previous day’s meeting, and outlined a covert scheme to induce my exit so GM could go forward with its Fremont Auto Mall Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac plan (with Mr. Okenquist as dealer.)  At the time, I was unaware of GM’s Auto Mall plan and the internal e-mail sequence, but learned of them at later dates.  See Expanded Details: “(2004-2005) GM Encourages Signer to Sell” for additional information and documentation.
  • (2005 July #1) Shortly after the secret April 13 GM exit scheme e-mails, a letter written to me by Ms. Keenehan’s subordinate, Area Service Manager Brian Vieau, misstated GM policy to virtually assure a future warranty audit.  On June 30, 2005, Susan Keenehan hand delivered a warranty audit notice letter that led to two GM auditors conducting a grueling, disruptive, and intimi­dating two-week warranty audit that began July 11.  On July 25, the business day after the audit concluded, largely based on coding techni­calities by our warranty administrator GM charged me back for paid claims it now rejected.  Our outside admini­strator had been doing similar GM dealer coding for 30 years, and stated that he had never exper­ienced such scrutiny or claim rejec­tion.  It should be noted that GM is prosecutor, judge, and jury in warranty claim admini­stration, and obviously singled us out solely to harass me as part of its exit inducement scheme.
  • (2005 July #2) The business day after the audit concluded, I received a letter proving that the audit was unauth­orized by GM warranty head­quarters.  I later discovered that a dealership warranty history document GM presented to me during the audit had apparently been altered to ”justify” the audit.  Months later, at a GM meeting I privately stated to Regional Service Manager Neil Stirling my observation of the mali­cious nature of the audit, to which he replied, “It wasn’t one of our prouder moments.”  Based on these factors and multiple other audit discrepancies by GM, there is no doubt in my mind that this audit was generated by Ms. Keenehan, in conspiracy with Mr. Gentry, for the sole purpose of inflicting harm to me in furtherance of its stated goal of inducing my exit.  As such, I consider GM’s action to be criminal, in fact a felony due to the dollar amount.  See Expanded Details:  “(2005a) GM Warranty Audit” for additional information and supporting documentation.
  • (2005 July #3) On July 28, 2005, just three days after the instant warranty audit chargeback, I received a letter from the IRS informing me of a corporate audit of the 2003 tax year.  The letter included an extensive list of documents requested for examination.  Neither the corpor­ation nor I personally had ever been audited before.  When conducting the audit, the IRS Revenue Agent zeroed in on a certain ongoing expense that had been in existence for a decade, and was conspicuously absent from his original seventeen-item document request.  The targeted expense had been paid and deducted in all interim years, but had been unquestioned by the IRS until now.
  • (2005 October #1) After the IRS audit was completed, despite the exhaustive magnitude of documents examined, the only change made by the IRS Revenue Agent was the targeted expense.  The Agent informed me that he was disallowing the targeted expense deduc­tion for the tax years 2003 and 2004.  His written final written conclusion went to great length to make it appear that MHD had no knowledge of the targeted expense (even though GM owned stock in my corporation between 1995 and 2000.)  In truth, MHD knew and approved of the expense when it was my partner.  I responded to the Agent that the disal­lowance would in turn create a certain personal tax deduc­tion for me in the 2005 tax year, to which the Agent replied that I was correct.  Since the resulting personal deduction was more favorable to me than the disallowed deduction, I paid the additional corporate tax without appealing, and later took the newly created larger deduction on my 2005 personal tax return.  In 2009, through the Free­dom of Information Act I obtained my IRS Audit File, which revealed that the IRS internally initiated the audit process on April 14, 2005, which, in eerie “coincidence,” was the day after the aforementioned April 13 GM secret e-mail sequence outlining its scheme to induce my exit.  Based on multiple factors, it is my strong opinion that GM used its knowledge of the deduction to initiate the IRS audit as harassment to financially and emotionally damage me as another element of its multi-faceted plan to induce my exit.  See Expanded Details: “(2005) First IRS Audit” for additional information and documentation.
  • (2005 October #2) In October 2005, Newark Saturn dealer John Cross asked me my thoughts on GM’s desire to relocate to the Fremont Auto Mall, assuming GM had discussed it with me, which it had not.  Mr. Cross told me that GM had been talking to Ken Okenquist about relocating Pontiac-GMC to the Auto Mall also.  Obviously, I was shocked at this news, as GM had fought me so hard to keep me out of the Auto Mall that I co-developed.  In November 2005, I contacted GM representative Jim Gentry, who replied that GM was “gauging dealer interest” in the Auto Mall at $30-$40 per square foot of land.  I told him that I was not inter­ested in the high-priced property, but due to the devastating effect that GM’s abandon­­ment of Newark would have on me, I wished to be kept informed of future developments.  My learning of GM’s Auto Mall pursuit, and the damage it would cause me, clarified why GM had tried so hard in the last year to induce my exit.
  • (2006 January) On January 25, 2006, GM Network Planning representatives Jim Gentry and Herman Caruthers (Dan Meyer’s replacement, and Mr. Gentry’s subordinate) met with me to review GM’s Auto Mall project.  Mr. Gentry conducted the meeting, while Mr. Caruthers observed.  Mr. Gentry stated that property would cost me $35 per square foot including GM’s $1 per foot profit, and that my Newark facility’s best value would be as bare land at $20 – $25 per square foot with my nearly new facility torn down.  Based on his figures, duplicating my current facility at the Auto Mall would cost approximately $8,200,000, and leave salvage value of my bare land at approxi­mately $3,300,000 before selling expenses, a $5,000,000 deficit that GM refused to compensate me for.  I responded that I had no interest in relocating under GM’s illogical and wasteful plan, or in giving up my franchises, which is what they preferred.  GM’s goal was to have Ken Okenquist operating B-P-G-Cadillac at the Fremont Auto Mall; the exact plan it denied me in the early 1990’s.
  • (2006 February) At 8:49 AM on February 21, 2006, in an e-mail to Jim Gentry I urged him to discontinue GM’s Fremont Auto Mall pursuit and allow us GM dealers to con­tinue in Newark in our nearly new buildings.  Later that day at 3:51, in eerily “coincidental” timing, GMAC faxed a mysterious, unjusti­fied and unprec­edented request of 15 items for audit.  At 4:39 that afternoon, Mr. Gentry responded to my 8:49 e-mail, stating that he would review the points in my letter and get back with me.  Considering the same day timing of the events, it was clear to me that the GMAC audit notice was made at Mr. Gentry’s request after reading my 8:49 e-mail, in an attempt to determine my staying power under GM’s pressure.  The 3:51 PM GMAC request was made before Mr. Gentry’s 4:39 acknowledgement to make GMAC’s audit appear unconnected to my e-mail.  It is illegal for GMAC to share a dealer’s financial information with GM, thus making the conspired scheme a criminal act.  On February 24, Mr. Gentry responded to my February 21 e-mail, stating that GM would indeed pursue the Auto Mall, and unbelievably that he felt GM was not to blame for my Newark location.  See Expanded Details, “(2006) GM Reveals Fremont Auto Mall Plan to Signer.”
  • (2006 February) On February 22 I learned from a representative of Enterprise Rent-A-Car that GMAC had recently secretly placed my dealership on “auction call” status.  It notified auctions and rental companies that they must contact GMAC for authorization to floorplan (inventory finance) each car I bought.  The “auction call” created a false negative, and thus defamatory, impression of my financial condition.  GMAC’s secret “auction call” status was implemented despite my unusually strong 70% equity in new and used vehicle inventory and real estate, and 25 years of perfect GMAC pay history.
  • (2006 March) On March 7, 2006, I sent GMAC Area Manager Ludlow Ramsay, with copies to other GM and GMAC personnel, an e-mail exposing GMAC’s financial information sharing and auction call schemes.  Mr. Ramsay immediately called me and told me he had reversed the auction call status, and requested a meeting with me.  On March 9 he visited me, apologized profusely verbally and in writing, and also withdrew the audit item request.  At a May 12 GM meeting, I saw GMAC Vice-President Keith Constantine, who told me he was “11 on a scale of 10″ angered about what GMAC had done to me.  A week later Mr. Ramsay “resigned” in mid-career, an action that, in a 2009 deposition, he acknowledged was induced by Mr. Constantine, presumably to distance GMAC from the illegal acts in the event that I would take legal action.  Another involved GMAC manager later “resigned” in a similar manner.  Replacement Area Manager Dan Antonelli visited me in June 2006 and asked, “Do you ever think about just throwing in the towel?” in yet another attempt in the conspired effort to induce my exit.  GMAC’s Gary Spinella visited me and told me I could sell my building for a lot of money (which I couldn’t,) and I shouldn’t stay in business if it was affecting my health (which it wasn’t.)  For further information and supporting documents, see Expanded Details, “(2006) GMAC Defamatory Act and Audit.”  Included in the Exapanded Details is a description of, and link to, documents from 2006 that GMAC provided to my attorney in 2009 as ordered by the court.  These documents contain some statements that, in my strong opinion, were indisputably falsified by GMAC in 2009.
  • (2006 May-September) In both May and July 2006, Jim Gentry again approached me about GM’s desire to buy me out.  In light of GM’s relentless drum­beat, and after suffering seemingly endless abuse from it and GMAC, I decided it was time to resolve the issues.  From multiple files that I had accumulated over the years, I placed them in one master chronological file, which then connected the dots and painted a clear picture of the conspired acts I describe herein.  On September 14, 2006, I contacted Jim Gentry’s manager, Network Planning Regional Director Ann Blakney, intending to make an appointment.  Before I even stated the reason for my call, she repeatedly said that my situation is a difficult one, but litigation isn’t the way to handle it.  Dumb­founded at her un­prompted litigation comment, I told her I said nothing about litigation, but that I only called to schedule a meeting with her, which we set for October 4.
  • (2006 October-November) I met with Ms. Blakney on October 4 and presented the history of events and my calculations of the eight-figure (>$10,000,000) total that GM’s denials of Pontiac-GMC and Fremont Auto Mall plans had cost me, not even counting any damage from the multiple harassment acts.  I then gave her a sale price for my franchises and facility, good until December 15.  In re­sponse, Ms. Blakney offered me mediation, but cautioned me that GM’s mediation process had a limit of $10,000,000.  As that was considerably less than my calculated damages, I responded that mediation wouldn’t work unless she could get the limit waived.  During the meeting, she again urged me not to take legal action, even though I still had not mentioned it.  On October 6, Ms. Blakney told me she was preparing a report of my proposal for GM senior management, and also that she was able to get the $10,000,000 mediation limit waived.  (I later learned that GM mediation has no cap, thus indicating that the ”cap” was an untruthful bluff.)  On November 9, Ms. Blakney retracted her mediation offer.  She said that she would meet with GM senior management the week of November 27, and then she and GM Attorney Deborah Collins would meet with me after that.  She said she would contact me the week of December 4.  At Ms. Blakney’s request, I met with Ms. Collins on November 21 and made the same presentation I had made to Ms. Blakney on October 4.
  • (2006 December) As Ms. Blakney did not contact me nor return my calls the week of December 4 as promised, I e-mailed her on December 9.  On December 14 I received an e-mail from Ms. Collins stating that my infor­mation was in the hands of senior management, and I would hear back from the team “later in January.”  On December 15, I responded that I would file for GM mediation, and as a one-time courtesy, would extend my offer to January 24, 2007.  I also initiated a transfer of my floorplan and mortgage from GMAC to Wells Fargo Bank.
  • (2007 January) In 2006, I had consulted a highly regarded out-of-state dealer attorney regarding GM’s many damaging actions.  His evaluated GM’s actions with me by saying, “This is the most egregious situation I have ever seen.”  Due to GM’s disregard for my December 15 deadline, on January 5, 2007, the attor­ney sent a GM in-house attorney acquain­tance an e-mail urging him to take whatever steps neces­sary to resolve my situation, as if I filed suit, it would be for a higher amount.  On January 23, 2007, GM’s California outside attorney issued a statement to my attorney that senior management determined there was no merit to my claims, and declined my proposal.
  • (2007 February-June) Due to statute of limitations concerns, I filed suit against GM and GMAC on February 21, 2007.  The mediation session I had requested was held March 25, 26, and 27.  GM made a sizable settlement offer, but it fell far short of my damages.  In April 2007, GM filed a demurrer motion to dismiss the case.  The demurrer was subsequently argued, resulting in the court upholding eight causes of action, or counts, against GM and allowing the case to go forward.  See Expanded Details, “(2006-2007) Signer Proposes Amicable Resolution, GM Rejects; Signer Files Suit.”
  • (2007 December) On December 3, 2007, GM completed the $13,500,000 purchase of the Fremont Auto Mall property for which it had contracted in 2006.  GM then submitted a rezoning request to the City showing an all-GM brand facility with multiple showrooms and a single service department, thus implicating one owner for all GM brands.  GM’s facility plan was virtually identical to my 1991 plan that GM rejected.  GM intended for Ken Okenquist to operate the multi-franchise dealership, which prompted Fremont Pontiac-GMC employees to tell customers, and at least one of my employees, that it would be taking over my dealership.
  • (2008 February) In a letter dated February 13, 2008, the same IRS Agent from 2005 requested an appointment to review documentation to prove the deduction I had taken on my 2005 personal tax return.  In eerie “coincidence,” the letter was dated just four days after a dealer convention where I briefly suggested to GM’s CEO and two Vice-Presidents that GM consider settlement in the year-long lawsuit.  As I mentioned earlier, I had never been personally audited before.  When the IRS Agent met with me in March, I presented the requested documentation, which he acknowledged satisfied his request.  Hesitating, he then went on to explain that he might have to reclassify the expense to another category that was not deductible.  I reminded him of his concurrence with my statement of deductibility 2 ½ years earlier, which he acknowledged was the case.  He said he would get back to me.
  • (2008 June #1) The IRS Agent again visited me on June 4, 2008, explained that the IRS reclassified the nature of the deduction in order to disallow it, and presented me with an assessment of $111,488, including interest.  After I reminded him of his previous statement of deductibility, the Agent explained that after he was assigned my return, his review led to his decision to accept my return as submitted with no changes.  The Agent said that in a rare override, his manager rejected his decision, which necessitated his subsequent reclassification and assessment of tax.  The Agent explained my options of paying or appealing.  I subsequently discussed it with my CPA, who indicated that we would have a good chance of prevailing in an appeal, but it would be time-consuming and cause further expense.  After considering the already existing stress and expense of the ongoing lawsuit with GM and GMAC, as well as the dismal state of the auto business, I reluctantly decided to pay the tax in July 2008.  However, as time went on, multiple clues surfaced indicating GM’s collusion with the IRS in this second audit, as had been the case with the first one conducted in 2005.  See Expanded Details:  “(2008) Second IRS Audit” for support of my belief of GM-IRS collusion.
  • (2008 June #2) In eerie “coincidence” on June 5, the day after I received notice of the $111,488 IRS tax assessment, GMAC’s attorney contacted my attorney after 15 months of silence in the lawsuit.  She suggested a GMAC settlement, and then I could continue with my case against GM.  In retrospect, the eerily fortuitous timing leaves little doubt that GMAC’s attorney was aware of the IRS visit the day before, and coordinated her call to catch me in a sudden need for cash.     
  • (2008 June #3) On June 10, 2008, GM resubmitted its Fremont Auto Mall plans and rezoning request to the City Planning Department.  The plans were revised from the original single dealership to two separate dealerships, with one being a “duplex” type facility housing Chevrolet and Saturn, and the second one a smaller “future” dealer­ship.  GM Minority Dealer Development program dealer Inder Dosanjh, who purchased Saturn of Fremont in April 2008, was to operate the Saturn dealership, and presumably Chevrolet.  The “future” dealership could only have been intended to house Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac once GM had successfully engineered my demise.  The originally planned single operation, now split  into two separate ones, allowed GM to move forward with the Saturn/Chevrolet facility so it wouldn’t have to wait till I was gone.  Around this time, Mr. Dosanjh’s employees began telling customers that he would be “taking over” my Cadillac franchise.
  • (2008 August-September) GM’s Fremont Auto Mall rezoning request came before the Fremont Planning Commission on August 28, 2008, where a GM Real Estate representative and Mr. Dosanjh spoke for GM.  The matter then came before the Fremont City Council on September 23, 2008, where only the GM Real Estate representative spoke for GM.  As in 2006 GM rejected my request to keep its dealers in Newark, I pre­sented my concerns to both Fremont City bodies.  At the meetings I publicly presented my situation and two messages to the members: 1. GM changes its mind frequently, and  2. If the City approved rezoning and GM abandoned Newark, the actions could destroy everything I had ever worked for.  In light of GM’s history with the City of Fremont and me, most members of each body publicly chastised GM about the way it had treated me, including one City Council member who commented that my case is material for a 60 Minutes expose’, followed by another’s suggestion that I should contact documentary producer Michael Moore.  Despite their obvious displeasure with General Motors, both bodies approved the rezoning due to the tax revenue benefits.  For supporting documents and links to City webcasts, see Expanded Details, “(2007-2008) GM Buys Fremont Auto Mall Property; City Council Chastises GM About Signer Treatment.”
  • (2008 September-December) Due to widespread rumors that Ken Okenquist’s four-dealership group was financially collapsing and nearing closure, in anticipation of the eventual closing of Fremont Pontiac-GMC, 0n September 19, 2008, I sent an e-mail to my Zone Manager, Jason Jakovich, informing him of my desire to acquire the franchises if and when the closure occurred.  GM’s attorney responded to my attorney with an absurd statement that I should not communicate with GM about such issues, and declined to respond to my communication.  On December 12, 2008, I sent Mr. Jakovich another e-mail proposing a win-win-win plan I had discussed with Mr. Okenquist in which I would acquire his Pontiac and GMC franchises, and he could rent or sell his facility to house Chevrolet.  The e-mail included an e-mail I had received from the Newark City Manager confirming the City’s support for a large freeway sign.  Again, GM’s attorney responded on behalf of GM stating that GM would address the issue if there were a buy-sell, and offensively warned that in that event, GM would then consider if I am qualified to be a dealer (after 28 years as one.)
  • (2009 January#1) As anticipated, in January 2009 Ken Okenquist closed Fremont Pontiac-GMC and Dublin B-P-G (Buick-Pontiac-GMC,) the last two of the four dealerships he previously operated and recently closed.  Following GM’s latest Newark plan failure, I asked GM yet another time to award me Pontiac and GMC for Newark to complete the B-P-G channel and hopefully make my business viable.  Due to truck sales, Fremont Pontiac-GMC sold about three times as many new vehicles as my dealership.  Consistent with past actions, this time citing pending liti­gation, GM refused once again (its 4th time in 17 years), despite the fact that 9 out of its 17 Bay Area B-P-G dealerships (P-G only in Newark) had closed in a 9-month period.  Mine was the only Buick dealership in the Bay Area, and one of very few in the United States, without Pontiac-GMC.  Had GM allowed me to have Pontiac-GMC, it would have made my dealership viable and maintained some value in my facility — clearly not what GM wanted, despite the sales it would lose and lack of local service due to no Pontiac-GMC dealer.  See Expanded Details for supporting documents, “(2008-2009) Fremont Pontiac-GMC Closes; Signer Requests Pontiac-GMC, GM Denies.”
  • (2009 January#2) Inder Dosanjh terminated the Saturn of Fremont (in Newark) franchise he bought in April 2008, and was awarded the Chevrolet franchise GM had bought from Fremont’s Central Chevrolet.  GM had made an agreement with Central in 2006 to buy the franchise in 2008 when it expected to be in the Fremont Auto Mall.
  • (2009 January #3) In a January 2009 deposition in my lawsuit, GM’s attorney questioned me extensively about why I felt GM had instigated the IRS audits, and then if I planned to claim damages from GM as a result.  He also requested the audit report and IRS communications.  To me, this unusual questioning indicated the attorney’s knowledge of GM’s guilt in the GM/IRS conspiracy I suspected.
  • (2009 February) A new judge was assigned to my case in August 2008 when the original judge retired.  In February 2009, GM and GMAC filed a Motion for Summary Judgment with the court in my case against them.  This motion asked that the court dismiss all eight causes of action before the 10-day trial scheduled to begin July 20, 2009.  After the motion was filed, my attorney then had until May 5, 2009, to file an opposition.  A hearing to consider the motion was scheduled for May 21.
  • (2009 April) On April 14, 2009, for my personal 2005 tax year I filed Form 1040X, an amended return requesting refund of the $111,488 tax and interest I had reluctantly paid.  My decision to request refund was, in part, influenced by additional GM/IRS collusion-indicating factors that had surfaced since I paid the tax in July 2008.
  • (2009 May) On May 5, 2009, my attorney filed our opposition to GM’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  We were limited to 29 double-spaced pages to summarize the long egregious history of actions that my attorney estimated would take 10 days to present in trial.  Appal­lingly, taking a position that was 180 degrees opposite of the original judge’s, on May 20 the new judge issued a tentative ruling dismissing each of the eight counts one by one, thus blocking me from presenting my case to a jury.  A hearing on the Motion was held on May 21, at which time my attorney argued for our position.  The judge subsequently maintained his position of dismissal in what is an absolute travesty of justice.  This astounding action was after 27 months, hundreds of thousands of dollars of attorney’s fees and related expenses, as well as considerable stress I endured in preparing the case in addition to the many years of unconscion­able events that created the case.  Making this action even more unbelievable is the fact that this was not just some routine lawsuit — GM had intentionally destroyed everything I had ever worked for in my life.  I have learned that Motions for Summary Judgment are rarely granted, estimated by attorneys I have talked with to be between 3% and 10% of cases.  One attorney summed it up saying, “Something’s wrong there.”  It should be noted that, as much of what is presented on this website would have been presented to a jury, readers of this Dealership History know far more about GM’s actions against me than the judge knew when he unbelievably denied my right to a jury trial.  See additional disturbing information regarding the court’s action in Expanded Details: ”(2009a) Judge denies Signer’s right to trial.”
  • (2009 June #1) Shortly after the judge’s tentative ruling, on June 1, 2009, GM filed bank­ruptcy and notified approximately 1350 dealers of their elimination.  As I was one of those eliminated dealers, GM presented me with a “Wind Down” Agreement that had to be signed and FedExed back to and received by GM by June 12.  A dealer not signing the agreement would lose his or her fran­chise(s), and would receive no money.  A dealer who signed the Agreement could remain in business up till a maximum of October 31, 2010, receive a token payment, but must waive all rights to existing or future legal action.  I considered my options, which included not signing the agreement and then appealing the judge’s ruling.  Considering the additional stress and expense I would incur, as well as the fact that GM’s bankruptcy left it few assets to pay a judgment, I made the only sensible choice and signed the Agreement.  The dismissal of my case was finalized in August 2009.  The judge’s decision that deprived me justice was made irrespective of GM’s financial condition.
  • (2009 June #2) California’s income tax collection agency, the Franchise Tax Board, sent me a personal assessment for approximately $34,000 with interest for the 2005 tax year as a result of the IRS informing it of the 2008 audit assessment.  My CPA told the the State that we had a pending IRS refund claim, which prompted the State to put the assessment on hold.
  • (2009 July-October #1) On July 20, 2009, a corporation named “Fremont Real Estate Inv LLC” with Mr. Dosanjh’s Dublin business address purchased the Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep facility in the Fremont Auto Mall for $6,200,000.  Mr. Dosanjh then relocated Fremont Chevrolet there from Newark in August.  GM’s Argonaut real estate division owns the vacated Fremont Chevrolet (formerly Saturn) Newark facility.  In October 2009, GMAC foreclosed on Mr. Okenquist’s vacant Fremont P-G Newark facility.  As a result, combined with the Auto Mall property GM purchased in 2007, GM, GMAC, and possibly Mr. Dosanjh, owned properties for which it had paid approximately $28,000,000 in four Fremont-Newark locations, with only one facility occupied.  And my facility was destined be empty when I would close, thus destroying my investment.  Additionally, much more must be spent to convert the Chrysler/­Dodge/Jeep facility image to GM’s image.  It should be noted that had GM not rejected my proposal to relocate B-P-G-Cadillac to the Fremont Auto Mall in the early 1990’s, the vast majority of the massive financial waste and chaos it created for many parties in the subsequent years would have been prevented.
  • (2009 July-October #2) In June 2009, I made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the IRS for, and received in July, my 2005 personal return Audit File (audited in 2008), which contained 73 pages.  In Septem­ber I requested and received the 2003 corporate Audit File (audited in 2005), which contained 165 pages.  I then sent a second request for the apparently missing documents from the 73-page 2005 personal file.  In October the IRS responded with 423 addi­tional pages that had been inexplicably, and seemingly illegally, withheld from the first group.  The IRS Audit Files contained considerable further support for my observation of GM/IRS collusion.
  • (2010 January) I received notice from the California Franchise Tax Board that it had put a lien on my house because of the assessment it notified me of in June 2009.  I contacted the agency to explain that the IRS refund claim was still pending, to which the representative responded that the lien would remain.
  • (2010 February-March) On February 8, 2010, I finally received an IRS contact regarding the amended 2005 tax return/refund request I filed April 14, 2009.  Following a series of telephone conversations with the Revenue Agent, on March 1 I delivered a letter to him that detailed why my CPA and I felt that the tax ruling was improper.  The letter also listed many document-supported reasons that I felt GM had initiated the two audits in conspiracy with the IRS.
  • (2010 April) Separate from any of the other IRS issues discussed herein, in August 2009 I filed a 2008 Form 1045 business loss carryback requesting a refund of $29,101.  When the IRS began the review of my 2005 Form 1040X, I inquired about the status of my Form 1045, the refund for which I had not been paid.  The Revenue Agent referred me to the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS,) whose role is to assist taxpayers with unresolved issues.  I contacted TAS, which opened a case on the issue in April 2010.  The representative was unable to explain why this refund, which should have been paid within 45 days of filing, had not been paid.
  • (2010 May) In light of the multiple cases of harassment seemingly connected to GM, many people familiar with this history have expressed concern for my safety — a concern I share.  Aside from the conspired internal GM and GMAC harassment items, such as the malicious warranty audit and GMAC auction call status, the outside damaging events are even more frightening: eight months of picketers unwanted by the majority of the employees they “represented,” two IRS audits with circumstances so extremely strange that even IRS employees are baffled, and a highly questionable denial of my right to a trial.  As this series of damaging events statistically cannot all be coincidence, and thus raises the question of what else could happen, in May 2010 I filed a document-supported report of the history with the Fremont Police Department (the city of my residence) to keep on file in case I should encounter a mysterious cata­strophic event.
  • (2010 June) While still awaiting the IRS’s completion of the review of my 1040X refund claim that seemingly could go on forever, on June 21, 2010 I sent the March 1 GM/IRS collusion letter to Treasury Department fraud investigation office TIGTA, thus constituting a complaint and request for investigation.  On July 19, 2010, TIGTA replied stating its intention to review my complaint.  As I believe that this apparent GM/IRS collusion was harassment to assist GM in its goal, I consider the actions of both parties to be criminal, and felonies based on the dollar amount involved.  See Expanded Details: “(2010) Signer Reports GM/IRS Collusion to U. S. Treasury.“  I am confident that a review of the Expanded Details narrative, which contains extensive supporting documentation, will eliminate any doubt that actions by the IRS were the result of covert upper level IRS directives in support of GM’s wishes, rather than incompetence at the local level.
  • (2010 July) In July, GMAC sold the foreclosed former Fremont Pontiac-GMC facility (in Newark) for $2,000,000, which was less than half its 1994 construction cost of $4,100,000.  The selling price is even more shocking when compared to the $6,200,000 Fremont Auto Mall facility GM/Dosanjh bought in July 2009, and the facility of the failed Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer in nearby San Leandro’s Marina Auto Center, which Chrysler Group Realty purchased for $6,100,000 in May 2010.  Contributing to the low value of the Newark property is the fact that the City of Newark wishes to keep all the dealerships zoned as automotive due to high sales tax revenue.  With no remaining unrepresented manufacturers wanting to permanently locate in Newark, and four of the six dealership facilities in Newark empty, the value of the facility I built in Newark at GM’s demand is in great question.
  • (2010 July-August) Since February, I had countless telephone conversations and several meetings with, as well as provided many documents to, the IRS Revenue Agent who had been working on my 1040X refund claim (among other assignments.)  In late July, he informed me that he had written his conclusion in my favor, which would lead to a refund of the $111,488 I was assessed in 2008, plus interest.  He later informed me that a new Acting Manager he had been assigned on July 15 rejected his well-researched conclusion, instructed him to disallow the claim, and then to research a reason to support his edict.  After doing research, on August 30 the Agent completed and mailed to me his new conclusion (that he disagreed with) disallowing my refund claim.  Within days after that, the new Acting Manager was reassigned away from that position.
  • (2010 July-October) On July 19, the Treasury Department released a scathing TARP fund audit report of its findings of improper methods GM used in selecting dealers for termination.  Immediately after the report was released, Tamara Darvish of the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights Co-Founder wrote an e-mail to the House Oversight Committee requesting that it investigate the findings of the report.  I followed that on July 23 with an e-mail to the Committee describing GM’s theft of my franchises for the GM/Dosanjh takeover of GM East Bay Market.  In eerie “coincidence,” on July 29, GM sent me, as well as nine other local dealers, a request for proposal for me to get my franchises back, plus GMC.  Although I knew my franchises were committed to Mr. Dosanjh even before GM filed bankruptcy, I submitted a proposal.  On September 30, I received a GM denial response.  It is quite obvious that one or more members of the House Oversight Committee forwarded my July 23 e-mail to GM, and GM quickly responded with the sham requests for proposal to give the illusion that it was honoring its pre-bailout commitment to Congress to offer terminated dealers new points that might come along.  To view these documents, see Expanded Details: ”(2009-2010) GM Files BK & Terminates Signer, Offers Sham “Opportunity”; Dosanjh Gets Signer Franchises.”
  • (2010 September-October #1) On September 14, an IRS Territory Manager contacted me in response to the TIGTA complaint I filed in June.  After reading my detailed letter he told me that he had been with the IRS 28 years and never seen anything like it.  He referred to mine as a “sensitive case,” told me he appreciated my patience with the IRS, vowed to do a thorough investigation, would ask his manager for assistance, and would put my refund claim disallowance on hold.  A week later he told me he had been taken off the case, and that it had been transferred to another Territory Manager.  In October, the second Manager told me he was returning the investigation to TIGTA, as this type of investigation is its responsibility.  He was correct: TIGTA Special Agents are members of law enforcement, and IRS Territory Managers cannot do criminal investigations the nature of my allegations.
  • (2010 September-October #2) Although the first Territory Manager had put my refund claim on hold, on September 27 I filed an Appeal to the August 30 IRS conclusion in order to safely meet the 30-day deadline.  I included a description of the last minute insertion, mysteriously twenty days after TIGTA received my June 21 complaint, of the new Acting Manager who rejected, without basis, the original conclusion to allow my refund.  On October 18, after the IRS had spent eight months reviewing my 2005 1040X refund claim, without an Appeals hearing the first IRS Territory Manager conceded that the conclusions in the 2008 audit and the August 30, 2010 refund claim disallowing the bad debt deduction were wrong.  Thus, he would authorize a refund the taxes assessed in 2008 on my 2005 and 2006 tax returns.  The twists and turns taken by the IRS in 2010 on the path to the final conclusion adds yet another bizarre chapter to the story.  See Expanded Details: ”(2009b-2011) IRS Refunds 2008 Audit Tax Assessment.”
  • (2010 October) On October 22, a California Franchise Tax Board representative came to my home unannounced and demanded payment of roughly $33,000 with interest for the pending 2005 tax assessment.  I had received no contact since the January lien notice.  I explained to the representative that on October 18 the IRS had conceded that its audit was wrong, and would reverse it and refund my money, but it would be several weeks before it was processed.  I offered to let her talk to the IRS Agent to confirm it, but she refused and continued to demand the money.  She finally left after demanding that I fax to her a financial statement, bank statements, etc.
  • (2010 November) As noted in the Home Page, an hour after the Signer Buick-Cadillac GM sign was hauled away on November 15, 2010, the cover came off a “Cadillac” sign that had been installed on the former Saturn facility two doors down.  Mr. Dosanjh opened Fremont Cadillac-GMC-Buick after GM awarded him the franchises stolen from me, and the GMC franchise it had denied me four times in eighteen years.  For the unbelievable story behind Mr. Dosanjh’s meteoric rise, see Expanded Details, “Inder Dosanjh Instant Empire.”
  • (2010 November-December) In November, Congressional inquiries on my behalf from Congressman Pete Stark and Senator Boxer were forwarded to TIGTA.  Seemingly prompted by these letters, in early December a TIGTA Special Agent interviewed me and told me he was initiating an investigation on my June 2010 complaint.  He told me confidentiality laws prevented him from giving me future information about the investigation unless he filed criminal charges, at which time he would contact me to testify.
  • (2011 February) I finally received the refund that the IRS had authorized in October 2010 based on my 2005 1040X filed April 14, 2009.  The refund consisted of the entire tax I was assessed in 2008, plus interest since that time, for a total of $121,638.78.  At this point more than five years later, my 2005 tax return was now adjusted to the way I originally filed it with the deduction that the Revenue Agent told me in October 2005 was allowable.
  • (2011 March) Of the approximately $525,000 City sales tax rebate GM used as part of its strategy to strong-arm me to Newark in 1993, approximately $180,000 remained unpaid when GM terminated my franchises, and thus the ability to earn the balance.  In 2011, the Newark City Manager informed me of a clause in the rebate agreement that prevented me from collecting the balance even if I opened a new business, due to the fact that the business had been closed for more than a year.
  • (2011 Feb-May) In February, I made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the TIGTA complaint investigation file.  I received a small response with very few documents, most of which were redacted, so revealing virtually nothing about the status.  In May, both Congressman Pete Stark and Senator Barbara Boxer forwarded to me letters they had recently received from TIGTA stating that it had found no evidence of a GM/IRS conspiracy.
  • (2011 May) In a check dated May 27, the State of California paid me the withheld $1,440 2008 refund I filed for in August 2009.  While it said nothing about the $34,000 it had demanded, the refund indicates that it accepted the fact that the IRS admitted its 2008 audit was wrong.  See Expanded Details: “(2009b-2010) California Assesses $34,000 Tax Based On IRS Audit, Later retracts.”
  • (2011 May-June) In May, I appealed the limited TIGTA FOIA document response, asking for the rest of the file that had been withheld.  TIGTA responded with a few more pages, and the revealing of some previously redacted text.  This new information showed that TIGTA did not investigate my complaint, with multiple TIGTA forms containing false statements to avoid investigation.  Documents also showed that TIGTA removed the Special Agent from the case in December 2010 immediately after he interviewed me, and then forwarded the case back to the IRS for quiet final burial.  As such, TIGTA had deceived both the Members of Congress and me into believing an investigation had been conducted.  The truth is that TIGTA “found no evidence” of a conspiracy because I gave the agency all it needed.  The only thing left to do is identify who at the IRS gave the orders, and who at GM initiated the audits.  As GM and the Treasury Department are business partners by way of the controversial $50 billion TARP bailout engineered by Treasury Secretary Geithner, there would seemingly be extra reason to keep my story quiet.   TIGTA’s refusal to investigate my collusion allegation is eerily similar to the judge’s denying me my right to a trial in May 2009.
  • (2011 June #2) Finally, on June 20, 2011, I received the 2008 Form 1045 refund of $29,101 in a check dated June 17, 2011.  I filed the form in August 2009, and I had opened a Taxpayer Advocate case for in April 2010.  Despite many conversations with the Advocate in the months that followed, nothing progressed, and the Advocate closed the case unresolved in February 2011.  In April 2011, I took other steps that finally prompted the refund nearly two years after I filed for it.  I learned that my Form 1045 refund had been apparently been  put on hold by my Form 1040X refund claim.  See Expanded Details: “(2009c-2011) IRS Withholds $29,101 Refund Due on 2008 Form 1045.”
  • (2011 July-August) On July 8, I sent a letter, which described my observation of TIGTA’s documented false statements, to both the TIGTA FOIA attorney and the Deputy Inspector General for Investigations who wrote the letters to the Members of Congress.  Neither responded to my letters or follow-up phone messages.  On August 5 I e-mailed and mailed Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George, with a copy to Principal Deputy Joseph Hungate, a letter inviting his comment before I pursued the case further.  In clear language, my letter alleged a TIGTA cover-up of GM/IRS collusion, and described TIGTA’s documented false statements.  After receiving no response, on August 22 I sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with copies of the July 8 and August 5 letters.  I never heard from Mr. George or Mr. Geithner.  On August 31, I  met with a staff member of Congressman Pete Stark.  I furnished documentation from the TIGTA file, and informed him of the non-response to my letters, and requested the Congressman’s assistance in obtaining a response.  The Congressman forwared my request to TIGTA in early September.
  • (2011 September – TIGTA) On September 2, I received an August 29 letter from Principal Deputy Inspector Hungate.  The brief two paragraph letter replied to my August 5 letter to Inspector General George, and contained the same evasive “conducted a review and found no evidence” evasive doubletalk that TIGTA had portrayed to the Members of Congress on April 27.  Conspicuously absent from Mr. Hungate’s letter is any denial of my strong allegations of TIGTA’s cover-up of GM/IRS harassment conspiracy, thus implying that Mr. Hungate agrees with my assessment.  For the complete story and links to TIGTA documents and letters exchanged, see Expanded Details:  “(2010-2011) U. S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Secretly Avoids Investigation of Signer Complaint.“  I am confident that a review of the Expanded Details narrative will eliminate any doubt that TIGTA’s actions were the result of  upper level directives to hide the GM/IRS collusion I alleged.
  • (2011 September – FBI)  On September 1, I reported by phone my allegation of the TIGTA cover-up to an Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI,) and informed him that the story was on donsigner.com.  He replied that he would refer my case to the FBI’s San Jose White-Collar Crime Division.  In order to formalize my telephoned report, I later prepared a package containing a summary of TIGTA’s actions, along with file documents supporting my observation.  I delivered the package to the San Jose FBI office on September 14, told the Duty Agent of my September 1 conversation, and that I wished to provide the documentation that virtually proved my allegations.  He asked questions about the story and took notes, but would not accept the document package.  He said that he would discuss the issue with his manager for determination of FBI action, if any.  For additional information on the FBI’s activities, see “(2011) Signer Reports TIGTA Action to FBI”.”
  • (2011 November – TIGTA) I received a letter dated November 1 from Congressman Stark, in which he enclosed an October 27 letter from Principal Deputy Inspector General Hungate in response to the Congressman’s September inquiry on my behalf.  Mr. Hungate’s letter contains the same evasive double talk as in earlier letters.  In addition, it addresses my allegation that TIGTA falsely misclassified my harassment complaint as a tax issue.  Mr. Hungate’s carefully worded response does not deny my allegation, but says it “had no bearing on the outcome of our inquiry.”  This cannot be true, as a proper harassment classification would have prompted a criminal investigation as TIGTA is charged with conducting on harassment complaints, rather than the dead-end “inquiry.”  These letters appear in the 2010-2011 TIGTA Expanded Details.
  • (2011 November-December) After hearing nothing from the FBI since my September visit, on November 18 I again visited the San Jose FBI office.  I asked the Duty Agent (a different one) the status of my report, to which his vague reply failed to indicate any action had been taken.  I handed him the package of documents that the earlier Duty Agent had rejected.  He reacted with surprise at the rejection, and then told me that he would read the package and call me the following week.  After not hearing from him, I called the office and left messages for him on November 23, 25, and 28.  I received no response.  As the FBI’s evasiveness was beginning to seem eerily similar to TIGTA’s investigation avoidance, on December 8, 2011, I sent a letter to San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas explaining my unsuccessful attempts at obtaining the status, and seeking a response from her or a subordinate.  The San Jose FBI office reports to San Francisco.  I forwarded copies of the letter to Ms. Douglas to Congressman Stark and Senator Boxer.
  • (2012 January)  After receiving no response to my December 8, 2012 letter to Ms. Douglas, on January 19, 2012, I forwarded a copy of the letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and requested his intervention.  I sent copies to U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputies of  both officials, Congressman Stark, and Senator Boxer.  On January 20, Congressman Stark informed me that he had sent a letter to the FBI requesting a careful review of my complaint against TIGTA and my allegation of the GM/IRS collusion.  On January 23, Senator Boxer’s Director of Constituent Services sent a letter to the FBI requesting a response about my concerns.   
  • (2012 after January)  I will update this page in the near future.  In the mean time, the rest of the FBI story, which turned out to be yet another apparent cover-up, may be seen at Expanded Details “(2011-2012) Signer Reports TIGTA Cover-Up to FBI; FBI Rejects in Another Apparent Cover-up“.


Don Signer comments

The above is a brief overview of the long history of my relationship with General Motors.  Many have asked me why I believe GM has targeted me for its actions of Fremont/­Newark/Fremont double flip flop, multiple denials of Pontiac-GMC, and multiple attempts to buy me out culminating with GM’s Wind Down notice in June 2009.  To summarize my opinion as simply as possible, I believe that once GM makes a decision, it must forever defend that decision even if it later realizes it is wrong, and regardless of the damage to others and itself created by its refusal to admit a mistake.  Industry observers have long criticized GM’s arrogant corporate culture that includes perceived infallibility, but have probably been unaware of the vicious methods GM is capable of using in defending those decisions.  The need to defend its early 1990’s denials with me was magnified by GM’s decision to take control of the Newark dealerships in 1997.

In 1998, Dave Bott apparently recognized GM’s Newark channeling mistakes in his support of my attempt to acquire Pontiac-Olds-GMC, but was denied by GM home office.  Later in late 2004, GM’s pursuit of Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac in the Fremont Auto Mall constituted an indisputable recognition of its error in denying my silver platter offer in the early 1990’s.  But rather than acknowledge its earlier misguided decisions and compensate the victim, GM’s strategy was to destroy the victim.  Then in the end, GM stole the business to which I had dedicated my life, built two new facilities at GM’s demand, and performed well on GM’s behalf.  GM’s confiscation of my franchises, and thus final destruction of everything I had ever worked for, was not to reduce dealer count as it told the Presidential Task Force — but rather to give it to somebody else.  GM’s actions are ones that could only be expected in a corrupt third world country, if even there.

GM’s denial of my offer to take Buick, Pontiac, GMC, and Cadillac to the Fremont Auto Mall at no cost to itself ultimately cost me many, many of millions of dollars, and itself probably the same with all the chaos it created over the years in Fremont/Newark, the market it decided to control.  As my local market is just one of hundreds around the country, it is unknown how many times the same story played out elsewhere.  As this arrogant attitude is indicative of what was applied to its product development and probably all other aspects of its business, it is thus easy to understand why GM filed bankruptcy.

I should add that GM has never indicated any performance deficiencies on my part to justify its attempts to induce my exit.  In fact, it was due in large part to my good performance in Oregon that GM awarded me Fremont’s first Buick franchise in 1980, and then due to my good per­for­­mance with Buick in Fremont that it awarded me Fremont’s first Cadillac franchise in 1990.  I always had excellent relationships with GM and GMAC employees, in­cluding most of the more than two dozen who worked against me over the last two decades.

In summary, over a period of nearly two decades, GM has manipulated the Fremont-Newark market under its constantly changing plans.  Virtually all of its real estate and revolving door Pontiac-GMC dealer plans ultimately failed at great expense and agony to itself and to me.  Astonishingly, of the involved parties in the second major Signer exit-inducement wave that began in 2005 – GM, GMAC, Ken Okenquist, and me – I am the only one who did not fail financially.  Ironi­cally, it was GM’s 2009 failure in bankruptcy that allowed it to succeed in finally removing me as a dealer.  Worst of all, after massive U. S. Govern­ment bailouts to GM and GMAC, I see no evidence of a culture change in the “new GM”.

GM’s position has been that it is not responsible for any of the huge damages I have suffered as a result of its Newark/Fremont fiasco or its multiple unjustified denials of my receiving viability-restoring Pontiac-GMC.  As GM’s response to my resolution attempts also clearly implies that it believes its employees acted properly and apparently within GM’s ethical conduct guidelines, I evaluate that position against guidelines set forth in its “Winning With Integrity” policy statement that has been displayed for years on gm.com.  It is my strong opinion that I have experienced many instances of GM employees’ blatant disregard of certain directives contained therein.  As these actions were effectively endorsed by senior management, I call on GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson to order removal of “Winning With Integrity” from public display, as my experience indicates that it sends a false message of GM’s actual practice.

I was left with an empty facility that I built in the location of GM’s insistence.  I talked to the few franchises not currently represented in Fremont-Newark, and the only two that wished to have a dealer in the Fremont-Newark market, Nissan and Hyundai, wanted to be in the Fremont Auto Mall, and ultimately opened there.  Had my facility been in the Fremont Auto Mall, I could be collecting $40,000 – $50,000 per month in rent from some manufacturer, even with GM taking my franchises from me.  Or had GM allowed me the GMC franchise, as it has done with all other Buick dealers, I could be paying myself that rent in Newark and still possibly make a small business profit and salary.  As it was, my empty facility burdened me with $56,000 a year in property taxes, plus insurance, a gardener, some utilities, fire monitor service, etc.  I ultimately sold it in mid 2012 for at least $2,000,000 less than it would have been worth in the Fremont Auto Mall.

It is unknown how many dealers General Motors has treated as it has Bob Gee and me.  However I would suspect that most such dealers succumb to GM’s pressures in the first round or two, with few, if any, surviving as long as I have after multiple adversarial actions and a non-viable franchise structure.   I often wonder how the dozens of GM and GMAC employees involved in my destruction can look themselves in the mirror.  I am proud of the fact that my conscience is clear with regard to my ethical actions with GM over the 39 years, including 10 in Oregon, that I represented the corporation with dignity.  I am deeply saddened, however, that the company to which my parents and I dedicated our lifelong careers degenerated to the moral depths that I witnessed first hand over the last two decades.

Thank you for your interest.  Any questions or comments may be directed to don@donsigner.com.    

Don Signer


[1] As time went on after Pontiac’s disapproval of my purchase, GM increasingly realized that dealer consolidation was critical to the survival of General Motors.  Consolidations and dealer count reductions were even part of the recovery plan associated with GM’s bankruptcy filing and $50 billion U. S. Government loan on June 1, 2009.  In 1991, GM rejected the rationale I laid out, only to later learn the hard way that my plan made great sense.

[2] My dealership’s new Buick sales had declined from the 1984 peak of 908 to 79 in 2003, a 91.3% decline.  Fremont Pontiac-GMC sales in 2003 were 652 as a result of GM’s product shift from cars to trucks.  Most of the sales were GMC’s.