GM & U.S. Justice Department To Agree: Neither Safety Nor Justice Advance
The NY Times reports:
“Federal prosecutors are poised to settle a criminal investigation into General Motors, according to people briefed on the matter, accusing the automaker of failing to disclose a safety defect tied to at least 124 deaths. The case, which the prosecutors plan to unveil on Thursday, would cap a wide-ranging investigation that tainted the automaker’s reputation for quality and safety and damaged its bottom line.
The prosecutors will impose a penalty of nearly $1 billion on G.M., according to people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity, but they are not expected to include charges against individual G.M. employees….
In recent months, some G.M. officials expected that the company would pay more than the $1.2 billion paid last year by Toyota for concealing unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles. The company also faced the possibility that it would have to plead guilty to a crime.
Instead, G.M. has agreed to sign a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement, the people said, a deal that effectively amounts to probation for corporations.
Notably, G.M. employees are also expected to avoid indictment, though the investigation will most likely continue, according to the people briefed on the matter. After more than a yearlong inquiry into the defect — which involved faulty ignition switches that could unexpectedly turn off, cutting the engine and disabling airbags — federal prosecutors in Manhattan and theFederal Bureau of Investigation struggled to pin criminal wrongdoing on any one G.M. employee. They concluded instead that the problems stemmed from a collective failure by the automaker….
“If a corporation plays nice and agrees to the terms, then the government gets some nice money, and the victims are just left in the dust,” said Susan Averill, the daughter-in-law of Jean Averill, who was killed in a 2003 crash of a Saturn Ion at the age of 81. Hers was the earliest fatality G.M. connected with the ignition defect. “It doesn’t seem right to me.”…
Laura Christian, the birth mother of 16-year-old Amber Rose, who was killed in a July 2005 crash in Maryland, said she was shocked to hear that G.M. might pay less than Toyota paid to resolve its case.
“That’s giving G.M. and the other auto manufacturers permission to do it again,” Ms. Christian said. “And all of the people who were killed in these crashes, including my daughter, will have lost their lives in vain.”
Clarence Ditlow notes:“GM killed over a 100 people by knowingly putting a defective ignition switch into over 1 million vehicles. Yet no one from GM went to jail or was even charged with criminal homicide. This shows a weakness in the law not a weakness in the facts. GM killed innocent consumers. GM has paid millions of dollars to its lobbyists to keep criminal penalties out of the Vehicle Safety Act since 1966. Today thanks to its lobbyists, GM officials walk off scot free while its customers are six feet under.”