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Ignition defect verdict against GM raises concerns

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015   

After failure to relay important safety information regarding faulty ignition switches in their vehicles, an act that cost 124 individuals their lives, GM was issued a $900 million fine last week as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. While many believed the fine was too small, there was hope that individual company employees would also face criminal charges for their complicity in the concealment of this dangerous defect.  However, no company officials who were involved in the scheme have been charged and, additionally, if GM complies with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, all criminal charges against the company will be dropped.

Many are outraged that the company is not being forced to plead guilty and is paying a relatively small amount in relation to how many lives were lost. As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, GM admitted to knowing as early as 2004 about the faulty ignition switches but did nothing to recall any affected vehicles. Many are criticizing the Justice Department for the decision in this case specifically, as well as the broader implications it has about using deferred prosecution and nonprosecution agreements in lieu of criminal convictions in instances of corporate crime.

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