The News Bee

Criminal actions found in GM ignition switch case

Criminal actions found in GM ignition switch case

The Justice Department has found criminal wrongdoing by General Motors in failing to disclose its ignition-switch defect that has cost at least 104 lives, the New York Times reported Friday night. The discovery could put General Motors on track for a record fine in addition to the millions it is paying out to victims and to cover the cost of replacing 2.6 million switches in older-model

The Times, quoting “people briefed on the inquiry,” says the discovery of criminal wrongdoing is likely to lead to a record fine, perhaps as soon as this summer. It notes that GM’s determination to acknowledge the defect and get through the investigation puts it contrast to Toyota, which paid $1.2 billion in fines for concealing reports of unintended acceleration in vehicles. The wide-ranging investigation into GM’s switch case has also included a look at whether GM deliberately failed to disclose the issue during its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization proceedings, the Times says.

“We are cooperating fully with all requests, but we are unable to comment on the status of the investigation including timing,” GM said in a statement. GM CEO Mary Barra has apologized repeatedly for the switch defect, attempting to use the case to change the corporate culture at the nation’s largest automaker. She testified before congressional committees on the defects and brought in an independent counsel, Kenneth Feinberg, to go through claims and find those eligible for compensation.

From the 13 deaths that the automaker originally thought were tied to switch defects, Feinberg’s weekly tally hit 100 on May 11 and now stands at 104 with more cases still under review. The switches were defective because they could easy move from the “run” position to the “accessory” position if jostled while the car was being driven. That resulted in the disabling of the power steering and brakes and deactivating the air bags. Without inflation of the air bags, fatalities were more likely in the resulting accidents.