Ernst Lieb with SLS AMG

When Ernst Lieb (farthest right in the photo) was ousted as CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA earlier in the week, speculation was that he had been fired. While Mercedes has officially remained mum on the topic, a new report from the Financial Times says the cause of his departure was "irregularities in the human resources area," which FT says related to paying a household employee with company money.

Apparently, an internal whistleblower busted Lieb, who FT says had already gotten into hot water over his wife's golf membership – which he was billing to the company. The hard line taken with Lieb, says FT, may be linked to a focus on eliminating corruption in the German business community, after a string of scandals at Siemens, Volkswagen and Daimler itself. Daimler infamously paid a $200 million settlement earlier this year when the U.S. charged the company with bribing foreign officials.

But another report, from TheDetroitBureau.com, suggest that business decisions might have been a factor in Lieb's exit, "including a dicey move authorized by Lieb meant to bolster September sales numbers." While the Bureau quotes a "senior source at Daimler AG headquarters in Germany" saying that this attempt to manipulate sales numbers had "nothing to do with this," the report goes into detail explaining a one-day-demo program M-B USA cooked up for its dealers. The plan could have added "several thousand" units to the sales totals for the month of September.

While the source of the corporate brass' dissatisfaction with Lieb remains a mystery – at least for now – we expect more details will surface, including who the company will hire to replace him. In the meantime, M-B USA was forced to cancel its annual dealer meeting in Chicago this week.