Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) recently presented a new piece of legislation that will protect the rights of whistleblowers within the auto industry, and offer them the potential to be paid millions of dollars in rewards for particular types of cases. The new bill would give the secretary of transportation the ability to award auto industry whistleblowers up to 30 percent of the monetary penalties resulting from DoT or department of justice actions of more than $1 million, a similar structure to the existing rewards program run by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The new bill comes at an appropriate time when considering all of the recent news surrounding the auto industry. Companies like General Motors and Takata have made huge news within the last several months because of record recalls affecting millions of cars across the United States. The defects targeted by these recalls have resulted in several deaths and a variety of injuries. General Motors paid a record $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and agreed to a period of three years of intense supervision by the agency because of its negligence.
Now, people aware of potential issues with the design or manufacturing of vehicles of vehicle parts, or any other potential problems within these companies, will be able to be rewarded for speaking up to the federal government. The government hopes that these new incentives for whistleblowers within the auto industry will help to better identify these problems earlier so that injuries and deaths can be prevented.
In addition to the awards the bill would offer to whistleblowers, it also would remove the cap on fines given to automakers for stalling in issuing recalls and would increase the fine per vehicle by five times, from $5,000 to $25,000. Additionally, the bill would double NHTSA’s funding over the next six years.
For more information on what is contained in this bill and the effect it could have on the automotive industry, consult a knowledgeable Dallas lawyer with Whistleblower Law for Managers right away.