Neither Safety Nor Justice?

Neither Safety Nor Justice?

September, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

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 release on Thursday, would cap a wide-ranging investigation that tainted the automaker’s reputation for quality and safety and damaged its bottom line.

The case is not expected to include charges against individual G.M. executives, but it will impose a penalty of nearly $1 billion on G.M. and an admission of facts surrounding the wrongdoing, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One of the people said the financial penalty would fall below the $1 billion mark, though not significantly so….

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, but instead 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 is expected to continue, according to the people briefed on the matter. After more than a yearlong investigation, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation struggled to pin criminal wrongdoing on any one G.M. employee, concluding instead that the problems stemmed from a collective failure at the automaker.

That outcome, a disappointment for some victims of the G.M. safety crisis, illustrates the limitations of new Justice Department rules that emphasize criminal charges against corporate employees. That initiative, announced last week in a memo to federal prosecutors across the country, represented a tacit acknowledgment of criticism that prosecutors have secured record fines from big banks and corporations, but few indictments of their employees….

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.”

The Justice Department should listen to crash victims.  124 deaths at $9.2 million each = $1.14 Billion.  See DOT Policy Guidance on value of a life (copy attached).



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