Both attorneys came in contact with cases that could have resulted in GM recalling the vehicles sooner.

Autoblog has learned the names of two more attorneys fired after an independent investigator took a sweeping look at General Motors' failure to recall vehicles with failure-prone ignition switches. According to a source who didn't want to be identified because the information was not intended to be public, the company fired Jaclyn Palmer and Ron Porter, who were named in the 320-page report conducted by former US Attorney Anton Valukas, which was released earlier this week. Five lawyers total were dismissed from the legal department, and three of them have previously been identified in other news outlets.

Both attorneys came in contact with cases that, had they been treated as urgent matters or serious safety issues, could have resulted in GM recalling the vehicles sooner. The automaker knew about the ignition-switch flaw for more than a decade, even before affected cars were sold. But it didn't issue its first recall related to the problem, in which the switches inadvertently move from the "run" position to the "accessory" position and turn off the engine and airbags, until February.

The New York Times says the fired lawyers perpetuated a culture of secrecy, and kept knowledge of the fatal ignition switch recall from their boss, GM General Counsel Michael P. Milliken. Three other attorneys fired have already been publicly identified: William Kemp, who oversaw the in-house investigation into the ignition switch problems for two years before a recall was issued this February; and Lawrence Buonomo, who held a similar position in the legal department. Jennifer Sevigny, an attorney who led GM's field product assessment group, was also fired, according to Automotive News.

The ignition-switch failures have been linked to at least 13 fatalities and 54 accidents. An investigation by Reuters claims the death toll could be as high as 74 people. GM said it fired 15 people in the wake of the Valukas report, including engineer Ray DeGiorgio, who oversaw design of the ignition switch and approved changes to the part but never updated the part's number. Failure to update the part number confused investigators and slowed down the process.

Attorneys, including Palmer and Porter, didn't bring the issue to their boss, nor did they insist on a timetable for the safety investigation.

One meeting held in July 2012, more than eight years after the problems were identified at the automaker, was attended by Palmer and Porter. At that meeting, a more junior staff attorney asked point-blank why the company hadn't already recalled the cars. According to the report, the junior attorney was told GM's engineering team didn't know how to fix the problem, but they were looking into it.

Executives across GM failed to act with a sense of urgency, according to the report. In 2011, the attorneys seemed to realize there was something problematic happening. They gathered together engineers and the product investigation team to tell the investigative team the airbag non-deployment problem was a pressing issue. But some of the engineering team thought the problem wasn't happening often enough to warrant treating it like a big deal. Both sides left frustrated, and nothing more was done for six months. But the attorneys, including Palmer and Porter, didn't bring the issue to their boss, nor did they insist on a timetable for the safety investigation.

So far, 10 of the 15 fired have been identified in the media. Michael Robinson, vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, was the highest ranking official fired in the aftermath, according to the Detroit Free Press. Among the others let go are Carmen Benavides, who acted as the liaison to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as Gary Altman, an engineering manager who worked on the Chevy Cobalt, and Gay Kent, general director of safety and vehicle crash worthiness, according to the Free Press.


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  • 17 Comments
      diffrunt
      • 6 Months Ago
      One usually finds lawyers at the base of every nefarious undertaking, particularly in the swamp known as The District of Columbia
      Timothy Neal Templet
      • 6 Months Ago
      The picture reminds me of a old Steely Dan record album cover.
      ffelix422
      • 6 Months Ago
      Would love to see the severance packages of these "alleged" fall, uh- I mean, fired employees...
      jfa1177
      • 6 Months Ago
      Rick Wagoner and the executive team under his watch need to be brought to the floor. All of this happened while he was in charge. It only made it to the surface once he left.
      J Shep
      • 6 Months Ago
      Scapegoats.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @J Shep
        [blocked]
      John
      • 6 Months Ago
      Firing people does not change culture.
      hirohawa
      • 6 Months Ago
      What a shock a Big Corporation and Lawyers are responsible for screwing US citizens. Glad this is the only time this has happened.
      andrite36
      • 6 Months Ago
      "at that meeting, a more junior staff attorney asked point-blank why the company hadn't already recalled the cars. According to the report, the junior attorney was told GM's engineering team didn't know how to fix the problem, but they were looking into it." I really want to know what the fate of that "junior staff attorney" was & where can l send flowers! lol
        sharoncarty1
        • 6 Months Ago
        @andrite36
        That attorney is still, according to the report, employed by GM and the report says he followed procedure and did was he was asked to do, so he's not being held accountable for anything else related to these recalls.
      Generalhh
      • 6 Months Ago
      these low level execs are just the read meat for us. for so many non connected people to be doing the same thing and following the behavior pattern they all did tells us this was a GM culture problem and encouraged from the top. Likly these guys would have been pushed out had they raised the issue. Most people dont want to rock the boat they just want to provide for their family and if going against established corporate culture results in you being black balled i can see why many acted the way they did. most of the people canned dont even know each other personally or professionally. Thee guy will get separation packages and i suspect many will have to sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them from speaking about the true culture of GM (during that time and currently). the only way we will know is if congress suboneas thes guys/gals and reliefs them of those confidentiality agreements.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Given Citizen's United, shouldn't these individuals (and the entire board) be on trial for manslaughter?
      Insidious
      • 6 Months Ago
      Boycott General Motors !!!!!!!
      Technoir
      • 6 Months Ago
      Fk attorneys. Good riddance!
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