Friday, September 18, 2015
ABC World News (9/17, story 7, 2:15, Muir, 5.84M) reported General Motors has agreed “to pay $900 million to the US government” in “one of the biggest payouts by an American car-maker in history for hiding that ignition switch defect linked to at least 124 deaths.” GM CEO Mary Barra: “We let those customers down in that situation. We didn’t do our job.” The CBS Evening News (9/17, story 4, 2:35, Pelley, 5.08M) reported GM will also pay “another $575 million to settle civil lawsuits. Criticism rained on the Justice Department because while GM admitted it concealed a fatal flaw, no one will be prosecuted.” NBC Nightly News (9/17, story 11, 0:20, Holt, 7.86M) also ran a brief report.
The New York Times (9/18, Ivory, Vlasic, Subscription Publication, 11.82M) reports that in the settlement, “no individual employees were charged, and the Justice Department agreed to defer prosecution of the company for three years.” If GM “adheres to the agreement, which includes independent monitoring of its safety practices, the company can have its record wiped clean.” US Attorney Preet Bharara “defended the settlement” at a news conference, saying, “It has been a challenging case, for the agencies, for the prosecutors and for me. We’ve had to think long and hard about the appropriate resolution in this case.”
The AP (9/18, Hays, Krisher) reports Bharara “said the investigation is still going on.” USA Today (9/18, Bomey, McCoy, 5.23M) says GM “engineers, attorneys and midlevel executives failed to fix the defect for more than a decade.” Bharara said, “They didn’t tell the truth in the best way that they should have, to their regulators, to the public, about the serious safety defects that risked life and limb.”
The Los Angeles Times (9/18, Hirsch, 4.07M) reports the DOJ “noted that ‘certain supervisors and attorneys at the company,’ in highly placed positions, had early knowledge of deadly defects with GM ignition switches, which caused crashes by suddenly shutting off moving vehicles. The supervisors chose to prioritize profits over safety, prosecutors alleged.” Bloomberg News (9/18, Hurtado, 2.66M) says GM “announced that it will resolve some civil cases arising from the recall and a shareholder lawsuit in Michigan.” GM “still faces other suits in which customers and injury victims are seeking billions of dollars.” Christy Romero, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said, “The worst part of this tragedy is that it was entirely avoidable,” as GM “could have significantly reduced the risk of this deadly defect by improving the key design for less than one dollar per vehicle.”
The Wall Street Journal (9/18, Spector, Matthews, Subscription Publication, 5.95M) reports US District Judge Alison Nathan, in approving the deal, said, “If there’s any doubt to the criminality of the conduct, that doubt is put to rest today.”The New York Times (9/18, 11.82M) reports that “federal law sets a very high standard for pursuing a criminal case against people who knowingly withhold information about the risks products pose to human life. In auto cases, prosecutors have to prove corporate officers indented to defraud someone, something they do not have to do in food and pharmaceutical cases.”