GM lawyer, Delphi exec face Senate scrutiny

Investigations into the General Motors ignition switch recall continue on Capitol Hill this week, as two of the central figures in the legal nightmare testified before a congressional hearing for the first time.

GM General Counsel Michael Millikin testified Thursday, under oath, to the Senate Commerce subcommittee, about his knowledge of the ignition switch fiasco. Millikin's testimony focused on how his subordinate lawyers in GM's legal department knew of the problems facing the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and other vehicles ten months before the first recall, while he was kept in the dark. That last tidbit was discovered by former US Attorney Anton Valukas (pictured above, alongside CEO Mary Barra), the man hired by GM to head-up the internal investigation into the company's failings.

Millikin offered a prepared statement Wednesday, ahead of questioning, that read in part: " We had lawyers at GM who didn't do their jobs, didn't do what was expected of them. Those lawyers are no longer with the company."

Senator Claire McCaskill, chairperson of the subcommittee, didn't appear impressed. According to Reuters, she questioned why Milliken has kept his job, saying, "It is very clear that the culture of lawyering up and whack-a-mole to minimize liability in individual lawsuits killed innocent customers of General Motors."

The other man who testified today is Delphi CEO Rodney O'Neal. Delphi was responsible for manufacturing the faulty ignition switch, and congressional officials seemed keen on assessing the company's role in the recall, including why the company requested the faulty part be changed. According to the WSJ, a June 2006 email from a Delphi engineer was sent to 30 people at GM and Delphi that described necessary changes to the ignition switch. For his part, Reuters notes that O'Neal "largely denied culpability for his company" in today's testimony.

Joining Millikin and O'Neal on the stand Thursday were the aforementioned Barra and Valukas, as well as settlement specialist Kenneth Feinberg.

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