GM Executives need Prison Time

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who introduced a bill that would call for much stiffer penalties for auto executives and companies that delay recalls that result in fatal accidents.  If such a bill were to pass, it would likely tend to stop future foot dragging on necessary recalls.

McCaskill announced the new automotive and highway safety bill this month. She said, “Painful recent examples at Toyota and GM have shown us we also must make it easier to hold accountable those who jeopardize consumers’ safety. (With) millions of Americans behind the wheel every day, and more than 33,000 killed on our roads each year, we’ve got to do more to keep our cars and the roads we drive them on safe.”

Senator  McCaskill made her statement during a Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance subcommittee hearing. Government guests included Mary Barra, chief executive officer of General Motors Co.  Ms. Barra sits in the unenviable damage-control hot seat occupied by Jim Carey’s “Dick” in the movie “Fun with Dick and Jane,” about a company that imploded with the dynamite of its own disastrous policies.

Life Sentence for Death Case

Besides possible life sentences for cases in which delayed recalls lead to deaths, the bill seeks a prison penalty of up to 15 years for recalls that lead to serious bodily injury, up to five years for other cases.

Fines for automakers delaying recalls would no longer cap out at $35 million. They would be raised from $5,000 to $25,000 for every single auto included in a delayed recall.

The Senate bill would also double the funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of course, the bill is unlikely to be passed, but it might be worthwhile, at least in the short run, to make auto executives actually believe they could one day be held accountable for their actions. No part of the U.S. Government has done anything to bring any responsible executive to account for the economic implosion of the banking and financial sectors in 2008, so it’s pretty difficult to take anything coming out of Washington seriously, especially when it comes to holding executives accountable.

McCaskill, nevertheless, led two senate hearings investigating the failure of General Motors to initiate recalls of 2.6 million vehicles. The recall of faulty ignition switches in six GM models has been linked with the death of perhaps 100 people.

McCaskill’s bill was introduced the same day the GM victim compensation fund started accepting claims from injured people or from the families of those killed in accidents involving GM autos recalled for faulty ignition switches. Attorney Ken Feinberg, who presided over the 911 victims’ fund and also over BP claims in the Halliburton-cement-job triggered Macondo explosion in the Gulf in 2010, said that he hopes to process GM recall claims in 90-180 days.

Puzzling Protocol

Unfortunately, the fund GM has set up with Feinberg as administrator recognizes and agrees to compensate only a select number of cars with the ignition switch problem. It’s rather baffling, to say the least. GM has recalled many cars for the same ignition switch problem that can lead to accidents, yet the company has thus far failed to include those same cars in its final protocol of compensatory cases being handled by Feinberg.



Best Lawyers 2022 Badge 130