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Ford rejects criticism from ITC over SK Innovation battery deals

The ITC sided with LG Chem in its trade secrets claims

WASHINGTON — Ford on Friday dismissed criticism from the U.S. International Trade Commission over its decision to pursue battery contracts with SK Innovation.

The ITC said the second-largest U.S. automaker pursued new contracts even after evidence had emerged that the South Korean electric vehicle (EV) battery maker misappropriated trade secrets from cross-town rival LG Chem.

"Contrary to the ITC's assumption, Ford was committed to three additional battery programs tied to SK Innovation before any misconduct had surfaced," Ford said, adding that "key facts" would have emerged if the ITC "conducted a public interest hearing."

The ITC did not immediately comment.

The ITC last month sided with LG Chem in its trade secrets claims, issuing a limited 10-year exclusion order prohibiting imports of lithium-ion batteries made by SK Innovation (SK).

It permitted SK to import components for domestic production of batteries for Ford's EV F-150 program for four years, and for Volkswagen's MEB electric vehicle line for North America for two years.

SK has warned the ITC decision would force it to halt construction of a $2.6 billion battery plant in Georgia if it is not overturned by President Joe Biden.

In a redacted opinion released on Thursday, the ITC questioned why Ford pursued battery contracts with SK Innovation after SK's misconduct in this investigation had come to light.

It said Ford sought business with SK even after a company employee was deposed in November 2019 in the commission's investigation and when the automaker only had a contract with SK to supply batteries for the EV F-150.

"There is no explanation in the record why Ford would choose to ignore or excuse SK's egregious misconduct," the ITC said.

"The fault here belongs with SK, as well as with those, like Ford, who deliberately chose to continue to cultivate prospective business relationships predicated on SK's trade secret misappropriation."

Ford said Friday it "does not condone the actions SK Innovation is accused of — particularly misappropriating trade secrets and destroying evidence in the course of an investigation."

LG Chem noted the ITC ruling found SK misappropriated LG trade secrets worth billions of dollars spanning the entire electric vehicle battery business.

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