Corporate Monitorships

Ensuring Safety Compliance for an Automotive Giant

When the Department of Justice (DOJ) appointed an independent monitor to oversee General Motors’ safety compliance efforts, a WMHW partner was asked to serve on the leadership team. For the next three years, our lawyers worked with General Motors to review, assess, and improve their policies, reaffirming the Detroit-based automaker’s commitment to motor vehicle safety.

In September 2015 – on the heels of a massive recall of cars with faulty ignition switches that had been linked to over 100 deaths – General Motors agreed to pay a $900 million fine and appoint an independent monitor for three years to supervise its redesigned recall process. WMHW lawyers traveled frequently to GM’s offices in Michigan to monitor the company’s remediation. They focused primarily on GM’s safety and field investigation process, which provided a blueprint for issuing safety recalls and preventing future defects. Every four months, the monitor team made recommendations for improving GM’s processes.

The team’s recommendations proved sound. In September 2018, a federal judge in New York dismissed the original criminal case brought against GM, citing successful compliance with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, including substantial safety improvements and the addition of a new product safety structure. No GM employees were indicted or served jail time.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal claims that General Motors Co. committed wire fraud and made false statements related to a deadly problem with ignition switches were officially dismissed in New York federal court Wednesday after three years of oversight following a $900 million deal.


Media Coverage

“Key Events in General Motors’ Ignition Switch Recall,” Inc./Associated Press (September 17, 2015)

“Ex-Federal Prosecutor Is Named to Monitor G.M.,” The New York Times (October 29, 2015)

“U.S. judge dismisses GM ignition switch criminal case,” Reuters (September 19, 2018)