With a fatality toll at 124 victims due to defective vehicles, family members of victims have wondered if prosecuting attorneys would hold General Motors liable for it faulty ignition switch. The answer came in the form of a $900 million settlement last week that left many dissatisfied.
The settlement stipulated that General Motors would pay $900 million but no individual employees would be charged. Additionally, the Justice Department said they would defer prosecution for three years on one count of wire fraud and one count of participating in a scheme to conceal a deadly safety defect.
General Motors must abide by the terms of the settlement, including monitoring of the company’s safety processes. If they do so, the case and the charges will be dismissed.
The settlement was less than Toyota’s $1.2 billion paid last year. However, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, maintained that the case was challenging, yet the resolution was appropriate.
According to Bharara, federal prosecutors kept in mind the victims. Also, the case was settled in 18 months because General Motors cooperated, unlike Toyota taking years to reach an agreement.
Bharara affirms that GM is not free from responsibility just because the company took action and created a victims’ compensation fund and let 15 employees go. He does think that other businesses should take heed of GM’s initiative and act like General Motors when uncovering the truth.
Although General Motors’ employees knew about issues with the defective ignition switch for more than ten years, prosecutors narrowed in on a shorter time period – from spring 2012 to February 2014. This was when GM started its 2.6 million vehicle recall of vehicles with a faulty ignition switch.
Victims’ families were not satisfied with the settlement because it seems as though GM simply cut a check and remained unscathed.
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