Two aspects of the suit are drawing attention from minority partners in Taylor's other dealerships. First is the allegation that Taylor and AMSI overcharged for rent and services rendered, thus watering down the store profits that partners such as Petrello can share. Second is an accusation that Taylor hid millions of dollars in reinsurance profits from premiums paid on finance and insurance products sold at Taylor's stores.
"I'm not a vindictive person, and I think Mr. Taylor is a smart person," Petrello told Automotive News. But he contends in his countersuit that "Taylor had the fraudulent intent to divest the Company of its expected gross revenues thereby causing the Company to pay less dividend payments to its shareholders."
Petrello's lawyer declined to comment in detail, saying the lawsuits are active litigation.
But Cameron, Taylor's lawyer, wrote, "Mr. Petrello worked at the dealership for almost a full year prior to becoming a shareholder and should have had a complete understanding of the rent, the sale of warranty products and the benefits received from the many services provided by AMSI." In addition, "It is unfortunate that Mr. Petrello is now, only after he was terminated, raising questions about the written agreements he made and confirmed over and over that he fully understood," Cameron wrote.
Several other minority partners said they, too, have seen business practices similar to those alleged in the lawsuit, such as inflating costs above market values to benefit Taylor at the expense of the partners. Those who agreed to speak about the lawsuits generally requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. Those who did speak on the record did so, they said, with the hope that Taylor will improve the culture and offer fairer treatment to the partners.
The allegation that there are reinsurance profits Taylor has withheld from the partners has captured the most attention among those partners.
"I want to see this lawsuit go class action," said Greg Brown, 56, a partner in Taylor's Ford-Lincoln of Franklin, in Tennessee. He was in the process of transitioning his shares to Taylor's Volkswagen of Clarksville, in Indiana, when, on Dec. 6, he served a 45-day notice of intent to quit. "I don't want to see Mr. Taylor go poor, but he has the reinsurance money in reserve, and we want our percentage of it."