GM could be held criminally liable for deaths related to its massive ignition switch recall


GM recall

REUTERS/John Gress

A Chevy Traverse sits in the shop for service on a recall repair at Raymond Chevrolet in Antioch, Illinois, July 17, 2014.

The Justice Department says it has found criminal wrongdoing on the part of General Motors for its failure to publicize an ignition defect responsible for the deaths of at least 104 people.


Investigators are now negotiating what could be a record penalty for the automaker, the Times reports.

A settlement could be reached as soon as this summer.

The Times cites people familiar with the matter who say the fines GM may be ordered to pay could far exceed the more than $1 billion levied against Toyota for its handling of unintended acceleration defects last year.

The manner of misconduct to which GM will admit is among some of the terms being negotiated by the automaker and the Justice Department.


Some former employees of GM are also reportedly under investigation.

General Motors' ignition recall stems from faulty switches that would cause the ignitions on some of its vehicles to inadvertently switch to the "off" position - often by something as simple as a heavy key ring. The defect would cause vehicles to lose power, and disable crucial instruments like power steering and even cause the airbags to fail.

The reason GM could be held criminally liable is that company executives have admitted they were aware of the problem years before a large-scale recall was ever issued. The company reportedly recognized the problem as early as 2001, and in 2005, GM rejected proposals to fix it because it was deemed too expensive.

Millions of GM vehicles have been recalled as a result of the recall, affecting models across the General Motors lineup from 2003 to 2011. GM last year began offering at least $1 million to the families of people died in crashes related to the defect.

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