Senator Claire McCaskill (D) has gone after General Motors’ legal team for its handling of reports of ignition switch problems on vehicles including the Chevrolet Cobalt, now linked to 13 fatal crashes including one in Missouri.
GM’s legal staff dealt with lawsuits stemming from those failures for years while engineers and investigators were aware of safety concerns. McCaskill says those attorneys allowed a dangerous situation to continue, and asked why GM’s General Counsel Michael Millikin had not been fired.
“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,” says McCaskill in a hearing of the subcommittee on consumer protection, which she chairs.
GM CEO Mary Barra defends her general counsel.
“Senator McCaskill, I respectfully disagree,” says Barra. “I have made the promise to fix what happened in the company to make sure that we are dedicated to safety, that we’re dedicated to excellence … to do that I need the right team. Mike Millikin is a man of incredibly high integrity.”
McCaskill told Barra, “I think the failure of this legal department is stunning. You look around government. When something like this happens … you know what? [Former Veterans Administration Secretary Eric] Shinseki didn’t know about those problems with [veterans scheduling appointments at VA hospitals]. Nobody told him. He’s gone.”
More hearings involving GM officials are anticipated.
A fund set up by General Motors for restitution for victims of GM ignition switch failures and their families will begin processing claims August 1.