According to the chief US prosecutor in Manhattan, holes in federal law and corporate “siloing” within the company have prevented so far the authorities from bringing individual charges in relation to GM’s controversial ignition switch recall that has been tied to 124 fatalities.
General Motors announced on Thursday it had reached a so called deferred agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle the criminal investigation on the faulty ignition switches and the related cover-up. But critics believe the $900 million charge is not enough and individual charges should have been brought against the employees at fault for the defective ignition switches. GM, the largest US automaker and the third biggest in the world has signed the deferred prosecution agreement with the DoJ to escape a conviction on fraud and cover-up charges, as it hid information from a US safety regulator. The charges would be dropped in three years but GM would need to hire an independent monitor and also meet other agreed terms.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declared – when facing criticism from victims, lawmakers and safety advocates – they still desire to hold individuals legally accountable but claimed the office had its hands tied. “We’re not done, and it remains possible that we will charge an individual, but the law doesn’t always let us to do what we wish we could,” commented Bharara. The prosecutor said it was unlawful for the auto industry to hide defects from regulators but the chain of responsibility is extremely diffuse and no single person could he held accountable for the entire situation.