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Is car manufacturer in hot water for securities fraud?

Italy vehicle manufacturing giant Fiat bought Chrysler in 2014. Since that time, the combined company -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV -- has reported record sales of its passenger vehicles.

Do those reports spell truth?

At least some people are stating that they do not and that the reports are in fact driven by false information geared toward driving company stock prices up. Such behavior would of course be unlawful securities fraud that manipulates good-faith consumers into relying upon inaccurate data to their financial detriment.

A Bloomberg media report from this past Monday states that individuals with inside information report Fiat Chrysler as being targeted in a U.S. Department of Justice fraud probe. A DOJ investigation signals a criminal matter. The report did not signify whether a tandem civil probe was also underway by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The publication notes that a civil lawsuit could "provide clues about what prosecutors are looking at."

Fiat Chrysler reported late last year that it sold more new cars in the U.S. during December 2015 than during any month in the company's history.

Dealers at multiple locations openly challenged that claim, in fact filing litigation contending that the sales figures were marred by falsely created documents known as "New Vehicle Delivery Reports." The plaintiffs state that dealers were paid by the company to falsify the documents. The result of any such fraud would of course be hyped sales data that would cast the company in a favorable light and yield an unwarranted spike in Fiat Chrysler's share price.

Car maker BMW has also been on the receiving end of allegations contending that it falsely inflated sales figures in the past to make the company look for profitable to investors than it really was.

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