With gunfire coming from every direction, as he NHTSA opened a probe into GM’s conduct on the recall and even a Congressional committee announced it would start its own investigation, the automaker is now internally investigating the matter.
Two law firms were hired to look into the recall that called back 1.6 million cars to the service and has been connected so far to 13 deaths. The internal revue would be headed by Jenner & Block Chairman Anton “Tony” Valukas, famous for investigating Lehman Brothers after its collapse in 2008. His Chicago law firm also has two of GM’s top attorneys as partners and has worked with the automaker since 2002.
GM CEO Mary Barra ordered the investigation, which also brings into the proceedings King & Spalding, a law firm that previously represented GM into some of its bankruptcy proceedings and other litigations. Michael Millikin, GM’s current general counsel, aids Valukas in his investigation lead.
“To me, there’s a conflict of interest,” said Monroe Freedman, a legal ethics expert and law professor at Hofstra University School of Law. “A reasonable person might question whether the firm wants to curry favor with GM, so it can maintain a good relationship or obtain future work.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it would move to investigate both GM and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) conduct in responding to consumer complaints on the matter.