McCaskill Reacts to GM Decision to Place Engineers on Leave

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Senator: ‘It’s about time’

April 10, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, Chairman of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, today released the following statement after General Motors (GM) announced that it has placed two engineers on temporary leave as the company continues an internal investigation into the defective ignition switches that have been linked to at least 13 deaths-including a fatality in Missouri:

“It’s about time. Of the many frustrating moments in our hearing last week, an especially surreal one was learning that the GM employee who had obviously committed perjury hadn’t even been suspended and was still on the job in a role with a direct impact on the safety of GM’s products. This marks a small step in the right direction for GM to take responsibility for poor-and possibly criminal-decisions that cost lives and put millions of American consumers at risk.”

McCaskill’s response comes after GM announced the decision to put the engineers on leave. Following the announcement, several media reports indicated that one of the employees was Ray DeGiorgio, the engineer who GM CEO Mary Barra acknowledged-during questioning from McCaskill-may have lied under oath about ordering replacement switches in 2006 without properly reporting.

McCaskill issued a statement yesterday, reacting to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) announcement that it is issuing GM a fine of $7,000 per day for every day the company fails to provide answers to all 107 questions in the agency’s request to the company questions about the faulty ignition switches. McCaskill accused GM of having a “culture of cover-up” at a hearing in her Consumer Protection Subcommittee. At the hearing, McCaskill demanded answers from GM CEO Mary Barra, as well as the national highway safety chief and Inspector General for the Department of Transportation on GM’s slow action to recall 2.6 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches.

McCaskill grilled witnesses on GM’s decisions over more than 10 years to not issue a safety recall-despite the fact that engineers discovered the problem in 2004-and questioned whether NHTSA has the capability, data, and resources to effectively monitor vehicle safety defects.

Last month, GM announced that it was recalling approximately 1.6 million vehicles to correct a defect with the ignition switches that caused them to move out of position while the car was on, triggering a loss of power and stopping the airbags from deploying properly. GM later announced that it was expanding the recall to cover 2.6 million vehicles.

McCaskill and the Subcommittee will examine potential legislative solutions to addresses possible problems with NHTSA’s defect investigation and recall processes as the Subcommittee looks to craft vehicle safety provisions of the surface transportation authorization due to expire later this year.