US Senators Support Bill to Protect and Incentivize Automaker Whistleblowers

New legislation that would benefit auto industry workers for “blowing the whistle” on fraudulent activity within their companies was announced in November. This bill is a direct effort to attempt to uncover dangerous auto company practices before people get hurt. Employees who work for auto manufacturers, parts suppliers and dealerships would be covered by this legislation.

If the law is passed, auto-related whistleblowers could receive up to 30 percent of the total amount of money collected in penalties when the US Department of Transportation or the Department of Justice pursues a case worth more than $1 million.

The legislation “is intended to incentivize whistle-blowers from the automotive sector to voluntarily provide information to the U.S. Department of Transportation to prevent deaths and serious physical injuries by identifying problems much earlier than would have otherwise been possible,” according to a statement released by bill sponsors Sen. John Thune, R-S.D and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

The legislation was introduced in as the Senate Commerce Committee was discussing the Takata air bag recall that involves 10 major automakers and at least 7.8 million vehicles.

In May of 2014, General Motors Co. paid a record $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

If the Thune-Nelson bill was already in place  and a whistleblower had been involved in the GM case, they could have gotten more than $10 million in award money. Similarly, in March, Toyota Motor Corp. paid more than $1.2 billion in fines after the company admitted to concealing safety information. In that case, a whistleblower could have collected a $360 million award.

If you or someone you know has information about any company that is defrauding the US government or one of its agencies, you may be entitled to a whistleblower award for sharing your information with authorities. Contact the experienced qui tam attorneys at Begelman & Orlow for sound legal guidance with your case.

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