The outrage that fueled the Congressional hearings about General Motors’ faulty ignition switch that has been blamed for the deaths of more than 120 people has helped to forge proposed legislation that would send executives to jail for hiding information about defective products.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced a bill that would send corporate officers to jail for five years and get fined if they knowingly conceal information about a product or action that could put the public at risk of death or serious injury.
“For too long, individuals who deceive the public and cover up information about dangerous or deadly products have gotten away with little to no penalties,” Blumenthal said.
“We cannot afford to repeat cases like GM and Takata where no one was held accountable for actions that resulted in over 120 deaths. We owe it to the victims and their families of the preventable tragedies to ensure that justice will be served for anyone complicit in future cover-ups.”
(GM CEO Barra says automaker learned from ignition switch mistake. For more, Click Here.)
Blumenthal, a long-time critic of the auto industry and a former prosecutor and state attorney general, expressed frustration that no criminal charges were filed against any GM employees as part of the settlement between the automaker and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. The company paid a $900 million fine.
GM also established a victims compensation fund that will pay as much as $600 million to victims and their families. The fund’s administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, agreed to pay benefits for 124 deaths and 275 injuries.
(Click Here for details about NHTSA’s plans to crack down on automakers.)
He believes the settlement is unlikely to deter executives from sweeping issues under the rug. Blumenthal lumped Takata and its faulty airbags that have exploded sending metal pieces into the cabin of vehicles killing eight people in with GM as examples where the new law would apply.
The legislation, called the Hide No Harm Act, would apply to other products as well, noting other cases including defective body armor and cribs in which supporters of the law say corporate officials should have potentially faced greater penalties. It would also apply to workers.
(Victims’ fund wraps up; rejected 91% of claims. Click Here for details.)
“This legislation will work to provide an additional measure of accountability when dangerous products harm workers,” added Casey. “The GM ignition switch recall impacted families across Pennsylvania. The impacted families in Pennsylvania and across the nation deserve justice. This legislative effort is a step in that direction.”