GM’s Internal Investigation (Mary Barra’s Whitewash) Prompts Questions

Valukas photoIt is expected that GM’s internal investigation will absolve GM CEO Mary Barra of responsibilty for the deadly recall delay that resulted in at least 13 deaths and 31 injuries.

I don’t think anybody expects an investigation paid for by GM and conducted by lawyers with longstanding cozy relationships with GM to be anything but a whitewash. This only increases the necessity of NHTSA and Congress getting to the bottom of the delay. They owe it to the victims and the public.

People are tired of hearing leaders at the highest levels of responsibility claim that they were simply not aware.

Here are some questions for GM, NHTSA and Congress:

1) Does ignorance of this deadly defect reflect any better on GM’s senior executives than complicity? If nobody in GM’s senior leadership takes credit for this, doesn’t it create huge incentives for executives to remain ignorant of potentially deadly defects?

2) Why did GM wait so long to hand over its documents to NHTSA when it is already able to announce the completion and findings of its own investigation?

3) When do the members of Congress who expressed such outrage during Mary Barra’s testimony plan to hold the next hearing on the safety recalls?

4) NHTSA said on May 16 that it had “no record” of Ms. Barra’s involvement in the ignition problem, but that was based on just 200,000 pages of documents submitted by GM. NHTSA now has one million pages of records, and the Detroit News reports that “a large batch of documents were turned over last week.” Isn’t GM being less than cooperative and transparent with federal investigators and gaming the system to gets its own version our first?

5) Have investigators deposed anyone who has left the company since NHTSA was made aware of this defect? If so, has GM made records of those depositions available to NHTSA? If not, why not?

6) In her Congressional testimony, Mary Barra said she could not provide the full internal investigation report to Congress because she didn’t know if there would be a full report. As the CEO of the company, Mary Barra was the person who authorized the internal investigation. How could she not know if there would be a full report?  Wouldn’t there be a full report if Mary Barra ordered a full report?

7)  According to the New York Times, GM’s General Counsel Mike Milliken is “a major focus of the inquiry” but he also “has been assisting Mr. Valukas.” How can the public take an investigation seriously when its major focus is one of the investigators?

8) NHTSA has said more deaths can be traced to the ignition switch defect than the 13 GM has admitted to. Reuters’ FARS data analysis ties 74 deaths to the defect. Lawyers suing GM claim at least 60 deaths are tied to defect. But NHTSA said only GM has the data to really prove the death count one way or another. How does GM explain this discrepancy and close the credibility gap?

9) The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) sent a letter to Anton Valukas on May 29th saying it believed GM employees didn’t change the part number in 2006 so as to specifically evade NHTSA detection. Valukas wrote back the next day (the 30th) to say he “appreciated” CAS “providing the information.” How does the report specifically address this question?

10)  If GM didn’t determine that the ignition switches were defective until Jan 31, 2014, how did GM’s legal team know it needed to settle the Melton lawsuit in Sept 2013?

11) Why hasn’t GM or NHTSA ordered a recall of 6 million pickups and SUVs with a dangerous corroded brake defect, as I requested three weeks ago?