When Congress passed the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act as part of the FAST Act last December, it gave the Transportation Department 18 months to implement the regulations for the new whistleblower statute. A year later, there has been no public notice soliciting feedback on the new rules.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S with its Autopilot system engaged in May. The car occupant’s death is the first involving a self-driving car. The debate over who is responsible for the car accident could impact the future of both the technology and plaintiff’s attorneys.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a massive settlement (between $14.7 and $15.3 billion) by Volkswagen in a press release today. More fines could be in the works as the EPA is still considering civil fines under the Clean Air Act and the Department of Justice is still investigating the automaker for potential criminal charges.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States. Although manufacturers have made significant strides in decreasing the number of fatalities since the late 1960s and early 1970s, there have been several significant instances of auto manufacturers delaying recalls and leaving potentially defective vehicles on the road after they knew or suspected problems.
Coverage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act this week alerted us to the fact that the legislation, signed by President Obama at the end of last year, included the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act among its many parts. The auto whistleblower law, originally sponsored by Senators Thune and Nelson, is now law.
Driverless cars will be the way of the future. They seem likely to change a number of industries, including car insurance, taxis, and parking. But will they change the practice of law for personal injury lawyers? This might be one of the first major shifts from technology in the plaintiff’s bar other than the acquisition of clients (from the yellow pages and newspaper ads to the internet/websites).
The Justice Department filed a complaint against Volkswagen in Detroit on Monday, according to media reports. The lawsuit accuses the auto manufacturer of violating the Clean Air Act by defeating emissions testing in diesel-powered vehicles. This scandal broke last year and led Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn to resign.
Transportation Funding Bill Set to Increase Damage Cap for Train Crashes and NHTSA Fines for Auto Companies
More money will be available to victims of the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia during May as Congress is set to increase the damage cap for train crashes by nearly 50% to $295 million, according to a compromise reached by members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on the transportation bill today.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a fine of $70 million against airbag manufacturer Takata and an additional $130 million will become due if the company fails to meet the terms of the agreement with the government or additional violations are found. If paid in full, the Takata fine will be the largest civil penalty imposed by the NHTSA. Eight deaths and more than 100 injuries are thought to have been caused by the defective airbags.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced it will make its second whistleblower award yesterday in a press release. The amount will be approximately $290,000. As expected, no details about the nature of the case resulting in the award were released.
The CFTC whistleblower program was created under Dodd-Frank, so it is only about five years old. Dodd-Frank recently celebrated its fifth birthday and it is nice to see another win under the belt of the commodities regulator.
The CFTC has trailed the SEC program in both the number of tips and awards. The first and only prior reward was issued to a CFTC whistleblower last year in May (2014) for the amount of $240,000. This summer, the Director of the Whistleblower Office at the CFTC told Law360 in an interview that the number and size of awards was expected to increase as the CFTC would soon be handing out big payouts for big enforcement actions.
The SEC program has issued awards to nearly 20 whistleblowers so far with payouts ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to a high of $30 million. There have been four international whistleblowers who have received awards and I believe two compliance officers.
The CFTC has received approximately 10% of the tips that have been received by the SEC but they have been praised as high quality. The CFTC only regulates pursuant to the Commodity Exchange Act whereas the SEC has more roles, including the Securities Act, the “Exchange Act”, the ’40 Act and the Investment Advisers Act.
In part because of the success of the Dodd-Frank program, Congress is considering adding whistleblower incentives to other areas, such as auto safety. A House Subcommittee solicited testimony last week on the bill which passed the Senate unanimously and is now under consideration in the House. Partner Eric Young, a whistleblower attorney here at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt, recently authored a piece on the legislation as it relates to Volkswagen which was published in TheHill.
Our CFTC whistleblower attorneys can assist you with answers to questions about this information as well as assistance reporting violations of the Commodity Exchange Act to the U.S. Government. To speak to an attorney, fill out our contact form or call 1-800-590-4116.