Auto Whistleblower Lawyers
The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act (signed into law by President Obama in December 2015 as part of the FAST Act) authorized the Department of Transportation to issue rewards up to 30% of monetary sanctions collected from information provided by eligible employees of auto manufacturers, part suppliers, and car dealers.
Our auto whistleblower attorneys will evaluate your claim of corporate misconduct by an automobile or equipment manufacturer for reporting to the U.S. Government (either the Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), or the Justice Department). If you have evidence concerning the failure to report a motor vehicle defect or issue a recall, you may have a viable whistleblower claim for an award.
History of Auto Whistleblower Law
For some time, Congress had been considering the funding of our nation’s highways. In 2014, Congress extended funding for the U.S. Highway Trust Fund for 10 months. The nation’s highway system was deteriorating and states were delaying projects because they were uncertain of continued funding by the Federal Government. At the end of 2015, Congress agreed to pass the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This bill was the first long-term funding of the nation’s road system in over a decade. It included a number of other measures, including increasing the cap on the maximum fine imposed for delayed recalls to $105 million. It also included the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which was the proper name of the Thune-Nelson bill.
The Thune-Nelson bill was introduced into the U.S. Senate in November of 2014, by Senators Thune and Nelson, to reward auto industry whistleblowers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had called for a nationwide recall of defective Takata air bags as part of its investigation only a few days before. It was also less than a year after General Motors (GM) announced its ignition switch recall. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the legislation in February 2015 and the bill received the unanimous approval of the full Senate in April 2015. The U.S. House of Representatives, however, had yet to act on several proposed bills to handle motor vehicle defects when the legislation went to the House for consideration.
Highlights of the Auto Whistleblower Program
You must be working as an employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, parts supplier, or dealership. You won’t meet the requirements to receive a reward if you are a consumer as it simply does not appear to be within the definition of a whistleblower. This is a shortcoming (as we would personally favor their inclusion) but it is excluded by the text adopted by Congress and signed by the President.
Tip Submission Dates
Individuals may turn in information prior to the adoption of the program. Only information which was provided to the U.S. Government before the signing of the FAST Act is excluded. The law makes clear that even if the information involves a violation which occurred prior to the enactment of the FAST Act, it is still eligible for a reward so long as it is turned in after the signing of the FAST Act.
Information About Vehicle Defects
The U.S. Government is looking for information relating to motor vehicle defects, violations of notification or reporting requirements, and other noncompliance which is likely to cause unreasonable risk of death or serious physical injury. In other words, it appears uninterested in minor defects and highly focused on the types of problems that would put car drivers and their passengers at risk of death or other accidents. It is fairly clearly targeted at the wave of recent undeclared recalls after manufacturers or equipment suppliers knew or should have known about problems.
Original Information Only
The U.S. Government is not looking for information derived from media reports or already known to the Department of Transportation. It is looking for information derived from an individual’s independent knowledge or analysis. It is offering rewards for detailed, inside information about the operation of a company, or product, and its violation of the law.
Report Suspected Violations
The U.S. Government will be interested in potential violations by large auto manufacturers and part suppliers. These include auto manufacturers Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Ford, Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, BMW, Daimler, Mazda and Mitsubishi, among others. Large part suppliers include Robert Bosch (steering, fuel systems electronics), Denso, Continental (brakes), Johnson Controls (seating and consoles), Delphi Automotive (power train, in-car entertainment), TRW Automotive (steering, suspension, braking and engine components), BASF (plastics, coatings), Toyota Boshoku (seats, door panels), JTEKT (bearings, steering systems).
Vehicle Safety Act
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. It requires motor vehicle and equipment manufacturers to provide timely notice of vehicles or equipment items they have determined in good faith contain a defect related to safety or fail to comply with a federal safety standard. The Defect Information Report is required not more than five days after the manufacturer knew or should have known of the potential defect that poses an unreasonable risk to safety or results in non-compliance.
The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act was signed into law in 2000 by President Clinton following accidents caused by problems with Firestone tires on Ford Explorers. The TREAD Act requires vehicle manufacturers to report defects, injury reports and other data to the NHTSA. The purpose of the law is to give the NHTSA the data it needs to warn consumers about potential defects. Fines for failure to report under the law accumulate at the rate of $7,000 per violation per day.
Criminal Wire Fraud
The Justice Department investigates egregious cases of deceptive statements to consumers regarding auto safety issues. The investigation and resulting enforcement action or settlement stem from criminal prohibitions on wire fraud. If the DOJ determines enforcement is warranted, it can lead to substantial penalties.
Types of Auto Safety Defects to Report
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30.7 million vehicles were recalled last year. If you are an employee of an auto manufacturer, part supplier, or car dealership, and you have inside information about unsafe parts or vehicles, delayed recalls, or the failure to report required data to the NHTSA, please call our whistleblower attorneys at 1-800-590-4116 for a confidential initial legal consultation. A review of past motor vehicle recalls has identified a number of critical systems where defects should be reported to the U.S. Government. Among the areas where delayed recalls should be reported include:
- Acceleration and Braking Defects
- Electrical Defect
- Fuel Tank Defects
- Safety System Defects
- Steering Defects
- Tire Defects
- Vehicle Crash Testing