The U.S. Senate passed the first-ever piece of whistleblower legislation specific to automotive safety April 28. The proposed measure provides incentives to whistleblowers within the auto industry to come forward about known safety issues. It was developed in the wake of the controversies surrounding Takata air bags and General Motors ignition switches over the last year and a half. The bill, which was initially proposed in November, still has to go through the House of Representatives before it would be signed into law, but its unanimous passage in the Senate seems to be a positive sign.
Under the proposed legislation, whistleblowers would have the opportunity to be awarded millions of dollars if they helped to uncover hidden dangers within the auto industry. The U.S. transportation secretary would be able to hand out awards to whistleblowers of up to 30 percent of the total monetary penalties recovered in enforcement actions from the Department of Justice or Department of Transportation, as long as those penalties are more than $1 million. This is similar to the way the SEC whistleblower program operates.
Anyone who works within the auto industry is eligible to be considered a whistleblower under these potential new rules, including contractors or employees of auto dealerships, motor vehicle manufacturers or parts suppliers.
It has been a turbulent year for major auto companies. General Motors paid what was a record-breaking $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an amount that could have led to a $10.5 million award for a whistleblower. Takata paid $1.2 billion for its delayed recalls, which could have meant a whistleblower award of $360 million.
For more information on how this bill could affect the auto industry and how you can report an organization’s misconduct, speak with a reliable Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.