The U.S. government hit the automaker with a $35
million fine on Friday for its delayed response to an ignition
switch defect in millions of vehicles. Regulators accused
company officials of concealing the problem.
The largest U.S. automaker originally noticed the defect more
than a decade ago but issued the first recalls only in February
of this year despite years of consumer complaints.
In an article published on Saturday, the Times said a review of
internal documents, emails and interviews showed that
high-ranking officials "particularly in GM's legal department,
led by the general counsel Michael P. Millikin, acted with
increasing urgency in the last 12 months to grapple with the
spreading impact of the ignition problem."
The newspaper said a number of GM departments stepped up efforts
to fix the switches when depositions threatened to ensnare
senior officials, and company lawyers moved to keep its actions
secret from families of crash victims and others.
GM faces other federal investigations into its handling of the
recall, which could produce more severe punishments. The $35
million fine was the maximum the U.S. Transportation Department
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said GM had broken
the law and failed to meet its obligations to public safety.
GM's internal investigation is expected to be completed within
the next two weeks. The U.S. Congress, Department of Justice,
Securities and Exchange Commission and several states are also
The Times said GM had declined to make Millikin or other
executives available for interviews for its story. It said four
senior executives have resigned or left the company since the
recall began, including Jim Federico, a top engineer who avoided
being deposed in a lawsuit last year when GM settled a case tied
to a defective ignition switch.
The newspaper said GM lawyers unexpectedly approved the
settlement last September in a lawsuit filed by the family of a
Georgia woman who died in a Cobalt crash in 2010.
Documents indicate GM restarted its internal investigation
because of information uncovered in the Georgia case, the Times
The faulty ignition switches on Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions
and other GM vehicles can cause their engines to stall, which in
turn prevents air bags from deploying during crashes. As well,
power steering and power brakes do not operate when the ignition
switch unexpectedly moves from the "on" position to "accessory."
(Writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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