• Jun 5, 2014

The report, "amounts to circling the wagons to marshal a legal defense," – Sen. Richard Blumenthal

A US Senator said General Motors' much-anticipated internal report on the circumstances that led to a deadly flaw going unfixed for more than a decade, amounts to a whitewashing of the problem.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of the most vocal critics of the company over its handling of an ignition-switch malfunction that has killed at least 13 motorists, said the internal report, compiled by former US Attorney Anton Valukas, failed to answer key questions and didn't identify how victims will be compensated.

The report, "amounts to circling the wagons to marshal a legal defense," Blumenthal said during a conference call with reporters. "It's the best report that money can buy. It absolves upper management and limits culpability. This report leaves really critical questions unanswered. It's a failure to come clean and acknowledge full responsibility."

Earlier Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a partially redacted copy of the 325-page report, which found no evidence of a conspiracy to cover up the ignition-switch failure that GM had known about for at least 11 years before issuing a recall in February.

GM CEO Mary Barra (pictured above with Dan Ammann and Mark Reuss) had called the report an unflinching look at the company's shortcomings, which she found "extremely tough, brutally tough and deeply troubling."
But during a press conference held before the release of the report, members of her executive team wouldn't say the company would waive any protections offered by its 2009 bankruptcy to potential litigation – a key point in how the company might address financial responsibilities resulting from legal claims. Barra deferred answering many questions about the contents of the report to Valukas, and deferred questions about the compensation fund to Kenneth Feinberg, an independent consultant who will administer the claims. Neither Valukas nor Feinberg were available to answer questions.

Barra deferred answering many questions about the contents of the report to and compensation to Valukas and Feinberg.

Many questions remain unresolved.

Who qualifies as a victim? GM has acknowledged 13 deaths related to the defect, though many, including NHTSA administrator David Friedman expect that number to rise. The report does not offer details on who qualifies as a victim of the defect, and the company does not acknowledge many ongoing claims.

"Clearly, the number is more than 13," Blumenthal said. "As much as compensation is important, public acknowledgement of those victims is also critical."

Why did GM's engineers fail to establish a link between ignition-switches moving to the accessory position and airbag non-deployments that contributed to the fatalities?

Why were cars that suddenly shut off while driving treated as customer-convenience problems, and not safety hazards?

"You would think the investigation would help to shape the fund in determining how many victims there were, how many should be compensated and how many injuries and others who were harmed, but there are none of those relevant results from this investigation," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said he's still troubled that GM won't issue a directive that would implore drivers to park their cars until they're fixed.

He said he would continue to press for federal legislation that would compel automakers to be more transparent when their cars have dangerous problems. If enacted, the law would require them to provide more information on fatal crashes to the Early Warning Reporting database, and it would also require NHTSA to upgrade its online databases to improve search capabilities.

Blumenthal has co-sponsored the pending legislation, the "Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act of 2014," with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). On Thursday, Markey was critical of the Valukas report.

"We need more than an accounting of past mistakes," he said. "We need to ensure accountability and that permanent measures are put in place to prevent future deaths. An internal investigation alone is not nearly enough to ensure that a decade-long tragedy like this never happens again. Until we end the 'don't ask, don't tell' culture that enabled these tragedies, we risk the potential that auto manufacturers will again keep deadly secrets."

Blumenthal said he's still troubled that GM won't issue a directive that would implore drivers to park their cars until they're fixed. Currently, GM says it has made fixes to about 113,000 vehicles of the more than 2.5 million vehicles recalled because of the defective-ignition switches. The company says it is on track to have all the vehicles fixed by October.

He also said that if GM is intent on truly being accountable, it should ensure that legal records from lawsuits involving the defective switches are open to the public. Instead, he charged that GM has arranged confidential settlements with victims that seal records which could have otherwise helped warn the public about the safety hazards.

He said GM needs to stop shifting responsibility for answering questions to Feinberg and Valukas.

"Which is made all the more important by the incomplete nature of this report," Blumenthal said. "Clearly, this one is not independent or completely objective."


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  • 52 Comments
      bagajellydonuts
      • 6 Months Ago
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gBClb5qkZQ Too bad......
      That Guy
      • 6 Months Ago
      Come clean on what? That they are the victim of a massive witch hunt for a complete noon issue? Again, your chances of having ANYTHING happen are 0.00001 percent. You have a greater chance of being involved in an incident with an animal on the road...should we ban animals?
        johnb
        • 6 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        yes, we should ban animals. especially lions and tigers and bears oh my!
        amge5.5
        • 6 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        Idiot. You should have followed the case better if you think the only thing at stake was the % of people killed. It is much bigger than that, educate yourself about what happened.
        That Guy
        • 6 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        It's clear that amge5.5 and Tariff haven't a clue as to what they are talking about. Such a shame that they put their unbelievable level of ignorance on display for everyone to see. They wouldn't knew a fact if it bit them
          Tariff The Imports
          • 6 Months Ago
          @That Guy
          @ That Guy It's clear that the shill That Guy hasnt a clue as to what he is talking about. Such a shame that he outs his unbelievable level of ignorance on display for everyone to see. He wouldn't knew a fact if it bit him.
      johnb
      • 6 Months Ago
      She's been at GM since 1980, and in management probably 10+ years now. My guess is she had a few emails about this issue back in the day.
        jz78817
        • 6 Months Ago
        @johnb
        I think that shirt you're wearing is ugly. hey, I know as much about your shirt as you do the goings on inside GM.
      amge5.5
      • 6 Months Ago
      Of course they will never come clean as long as they are allow to investigate THEMSELVES! I think everyone knew this "investigation" was going to be a joke.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 6 Months Ago
        @amge5.5
        Wouldn't that be cool if we all could investigate ourselves. I hope the jury is merciless on GM.
          amge5.5
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          I know right. I think from now on people should be their own judge and jury and not let anyone know the facts except what we take months to make up and then release to the public as we see fit. What a joke this whole thing is.
        krusshall
        • 6 Months Ago
        @amge5.5
        What exactly are they supposed to "come clean" about? They said they screwed up.
        jz78817
        • 6 Months Ago
        @amge5.5
        Uh, I know it's long, but read the damn report before you say things like this. The "joke" of an investigation determined exactly why the switches were failing, who was responsible for the switches, who was responsible for fixing the design without telling anyone, and why it took so long to push this into a safety recall. If you'd read more than just headlines you'd see that.
          amge5.5
          • 6 Months Ago
          @jz78817
          If think that is all that went on you are blind.
          jz78817
          • 6 Months Ago
          @jz78817
          no, but I can read. I downloaded and read the report.
      Larry Litmanen
      • 6 Months Ago
      Note to the Senator, GM lies just as much as you do.
      DKY
      • 6 Months Ago
      Seriously, why are people still buying GM cars? The only thing they probably fixed was having servers delete all emails after 30 days, so nothing is traceable. This time when they go under, the Gub'ment better not save them.
      photofill
      • 6 Months Ago
      Anyone see the article in July issue of the Car and Driver magazine? Sheds some light that this is really not as big of deal as everyone is making it out to be. Also shows the 13 that died either were not wearing a seat belt, drunk/impaired, or hit by a drunk driver. Sorry but the seatbelt works whether the car is in on, accessory or off position. Not saying GM isn't at fault for anything, but airbags really are a secondary safety device, and are actually more dangerous if you’re not wearing a seatbelt.
        normc32
        • 6 Months Ago
        @photofill
        Unbelted, high speed off road events are the result of the 13 deaths. It was mentikned here on AB from the bwginning. They settle on death out of court already. There is nothing wrong with ignition key. I reached over and pulled straight down on the gf's 2012 Forester and killed the engine at a stop lighr. No problem!
          Tariff The Imports
          • 6 Months Ago
          @normc32
          It's well know there isn't an issue with the ignition key. It's where the key goes is where the deadly problem lies.
      X8664
      • 6 Months Ago
      Garbage American companies. The world needs to sanction American made products. GM cars aren't just crap, they are straight up DANGEROUS. Sanction America!
      funguy6713
      • 6 Months Ago
      Is anyone surprised by the outcome? Law firm with very close ties to GM, does internal investigation and finds low level executives culpable while sparing those at the top...corporate America will never change and this will never stop unless the gov't starts to prosecute people in corporations individually for their crimes...same goes for the Wall Street bankers...
      mylexicon
      • 6 Months Ago
      Congress saved GM so they could kill GM. Is this genre referred to as dramedy?
      ffelix422
      • 6 Months Ago
      How is GM different from the bankers we bailed out in 2008. Bad behavior got both into trouble. We got them out. Have they really changed???
      SloopJohnB
      • 6 Months Ago
      There is nothing GM can do to satisfy demagogues like Blumenthal (or Issa in the House for that matter…) so it is logical and business-savvy to do what GM is doing. Since there is no such thing as bad publicity, Blumenthal seems to be milking it for all it's worth. It doesn't hurt that he's getting all this even though he's not up for reelection until 2015….
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