A high-profile trial beginning in a US court on Monday will see billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian claiming top DaimlerChrysler executives lied about the nature of the 1998 merger between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler, Reuters reported.

Juergen Schrempp, the architect of the DaimlerChrysler deal, faces allegations that he misled investors by characterising it as a "merger of equals" when it was actually a takeover by the German firm, Reuters said.

The report said the trial at the US District Court in Wilmington, Delaware is scheduled to last through to December 17 and it is unclear which day DaimlerChrysler chief executive Schrempp will take the stand but the company's attorneys say it is likely to be next week.

It may take Judge Joseph Farnan, who will decide the verdict with no jury, until March or April to rule, Reuters noted.

The news agency said that DaimlerChrysler and Schrempp face allegations of fraud and a violation of US securities law from investor Kirk Kerkorian who owned 13.7% of Chrysler Corp. shares before its $US36 billion merger with Daimler-Benz.

Kerkorian claims what Schrempp billed as a "merger of equals" was actually a secret takeover by the German firm, which hid its true intentions to avoid paying a higher premium for Chrysler shares, Reuters added.

The report said DaimlerChrysler, whose lawyer says Kerkorian is claiming $1.2 billion in damages, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and noted that the suit was filed after Schrempp told the Financial Times in October 2000 that he had always meant to make Chrysler a mere division of a new global automotive giant.

Reuters said DaimlerChrysler, which has lost two thirds of its market value since the deal was announced, settled with a separate group of former investors for $300 million in August in one of the largest out-of-court deals ever reached by US and noted that DaimlerChrysler lawyers have not ruled out a settlement for the Kerkorian case.

In addition to Schrempp, current and former executives ordered to appear and testify at the trial include DaimlerChrysler chief financial officer Manfred Gentz and Robert Eaton, who was the chairman of Chrysler when Schrempp clinched what he hailed as a "marriage made in heaven", Reuters said.

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