Volkswagen has filed a lawsuit in an effort to drop its affiliation with Prime Volkswagen in Saco and two other dealerships, the latest in a series of legal complaints against the dealerships’ parent company linked to its firing of former Prime Automotive Group CEO David Rosenberg.

In a complaint filed last week, Volkswagen of America asked a New York federal court to declare that Prime’s owner, New York-based GPB Capital Holdings, had violated its franchise agreement with the automaker, and to allow Volkswagen to terminate the agreement, among other demands.

If the franchise agreement is terminated, Prime Volkswagen and the two other dealerships would no longer be allowed to operate as Volkswagen dealerships.

The lawsuit stems from the ousting last September of Rosenberg, the longtime CEO of Prime, which has nine locations in Maine. Rosenberg last year accused GPB Capital of defrauding investors in a Ponzi scheme.

In a statement, GPB Capital spokeswoman Nancy Sterling said the lawsuit was not filed directly against any of its Volkswagen dealerships and is not a lawsuit to terminate any relevant franchise agreements.

“Volkswagen of America has filed this suit to try and avoid arbitration by dealerships, despite Volkswagen’s dealership agreement having provisions to allow a dealer to seek arbitration, and to enforce alleged contract rights against GPB,” Sterling said. “This lawsuit has a number of flaws, and GPB will defend this vigorously.”

Removing Rosenberg without Volkswagen’s approval violated the dealership contract it had with GPB Capital, Volkswagen said in its lawsuit. Volkswagen and Toyota last year threatened to revoke their franchise agreements with Prime dealerships in Saco and elsewhere over Rosenberg’s termination.

About a month and a half after Rosenberg’s removal, Volkswagen demanded that GPB Capital sell its ownership interest in Prime Volkswagen, FX Caprara Vokswagen in Watertown, New York, and Volkswagen of Norwood, in Massachusetts, within 90 days.

In late January, GPB Capital, through Prime, told Volkswagen it intended to only sell the Caprara location, according to the lawsuit. None of the dealerships have been sold.

Instead, GPB Capital directed the three dealerships to demand arbitration to resolve the dispute, a move intended to undermine GPB Capital’s contract with the automaker, Volkswagen said.

But arbitration demands by the dealerships in this case are prevented by federal law and violate a no-contest clause that allows Volkswagen to pursue terminating its dealership agreement, the automaker alleged.

An attorney for Volkswagen did not respond to an interview request to discuss the general outline of the case.

Volkswagen has asked the court to declare that Rosenberg’s removal enables the manufacturer to force GPB Capital to sell its ownership interest, and that the company failed to sell, entitling it to enforce termination of the franchise.

It also asked the court to find that GPB Capital caused its dealerships to file for arbitration in violation of the contract and dismiss those cases.

Finally, Volkswagen asked the court to order GPB Capital to terminate its franchises for the three dealerships and award the manufacturer attorney’s fees and costs.

Volkswagen’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal contests involving Prime Automotive and GPB Capital. Last summer, Rosenberg filed a complaint against the company claiming it had withheld a $5.9 million payment it owed him in retaliation for his allegations of financial misconduct including falsifying contracts and inflating the value of its assets.

Rosenberg, son of the late Ira Rosenberg, a longtime Maine auto dealer, sold a majority stake in the 30-dealership auto group to GPB Capital in 2017 but continued to operate the business.

Rosenberg was terminated as CEO in September but filed a lawsuit to be reinstated in December. A spokesman for Rosenberg declined to comment when asked if he believed the latest lawsuit against GPB Capital would bolster his case.

GPB Capital, which manages a group of investment funds, has been sued by investors alleging that it ran an illegal Ponzi scheme by paying investors dividends out of their own investment capital instead of proceeds from its portfolio companies. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and FBI have been investigating GPB Capital, and in October, a top executive at the company was indicted on charges of obstructing a federal investigation.

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