GM Chief Executive Officer: GM axes 15 over botched recall

Warren, Mich. (CNNMoney)

The delayed recall by General Motors that led to the deaths of at least 13 people was caused by the misconduct of about 20 employees and “a pattern of incompetence and neglect” throughout the company, according to an internal probe released Thursday.

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra announced that 15 employees have been dismissed and five more have been disciplined in the wake of the three-month probe by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas.

Some were dismissed due to misconduct or incompetence, while others simply did not do enough to fix the problem, Barra added. Their names and jobs were not disclosed.

Barra, a GM veteran who became CEO in January, said she was deeply saddened and disturbed reading Valukas’ report.

“It represents a fundamental failure to meet the basic needs of these customers,” she said about the findings. “We simply didn’t do our jobs. We failed these customers.”

The report found that “GM personnel’s inability to address the ignition switch problem, which persisted for more than 11 years, represents a history of failures,” according to Barra.

“While everybody who was engaged on the ignition switch issue had the responsibility to fix it, nobody took responsibility,” she said. “Throughout the entire 11-year history, there was no demonstrated sense of urgency, right to the very end.”

Related: How Brooke Melton’s death led to the GM recall

Barra said the company would create a program to compensate those injured or killed by the defective cars, although she did not announce a dollar amount that would be dedicated to it.

GM President Don Ammann said the company intends to fully compensate victims for their loss.

The company will start accepting claims from the program on August 1. Compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg is working on a formula to set the level of compensation for victims.

Barra said the report “revealed no conspiracy by the corporation to cover up the facts,” and no evidence that “any employee made a trade-off between safety and cost.”

But it did not clear the company of wrongdoing.

“What Valukas found was a pattern of management deficiencies and misjudgments — often based on incomplete data — that were passed off at the time as business as usual.”

GM(GM) admitted in February that its engineers first discovered the problem with the ignition switch as early as 2004. But it did not recall the 2.6 million cars affected until earlier this year. The faulty ignition switch made the cars prone to shutting off while on the road, disabling the airbags, power steering and anti-lock brakes.

GM estimates 13 people died as a result. But the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, other safety experts and families of people killed in recalled cars have said that number doesn’t include all the victims who should be counted.

Barra faced two days of grueling Congressional hearings in April and agreed to a $35 million fine from safety regulators. The company is the subject of a criminal probe. Congress and NHTSA are continuing their investigations, and GM faces wrongful death lawsuits from victims’ families.

Related: GM – Steps to a recall nightmare

The company, on Valukas’ advice, had already placed two engineers on paid leave in what Barra referred to as an “interim step.”

One of the engineers, who worked on the ignition switch, was accused by lawmakers of lying during a deposition in a wrongful death lawsuit. Barra conceded in response to questions that it appeared he was lying, but she said she wanted to wait for Valukas’ report.

Barra admitted in testimony before Congress that GM was wrong not to order the recall much earlier, and she has apologized repeatedly for the delay.

The recall has prompted a change in GM’s process for deciding when to order recalls and has prompted nearly 16 million recalls worldwide this year — a record for the company. GM has said it will cost about $1.7 billion to make the repairs on all those recalls.

GM tapped Valukas to lead its own investigation into the recall delays in March. A former U.S. Attorney, he is best known as the court-appointed investigator that looked into the causes of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

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3 comments

  • Baracko the Clown

    I salute GM for doing this.
    That is the way corporations (and government) should work.
    If you do a bad job you are fired.
    Take note, Mr. President.

  • John

    It never had to get to this! I guess GM forgot about the lessons of the Ford Pinto in the 70's. $$$$$ is the bottom line for these companies, not correcting the problem. The management structure and memtality is pushing out cars, not saving lives. Maybe someone in upper management who new about the problems should go to jail for the deaths their product caused.


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