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 maximum NHTSA fine for the failure to report auto safety violations was set by Congress at $35 million. Congress has since considered various laws that would increase the maximum penalty for the safety regulator to as much as $300 million.
Honda announced yesterday that it was dropping Takata as a supplier of airbags after concluding that it has manipulated and misrepresented test data. However, Honda has not been without issues itself. Honda was fined $70 million by the NHTSA at the beginning of the year. Half of the fine was for failure to report injury and death claims, with the other half for failure to report warranty and customer satisfaction campaign claims outside the normal warranty period.
We haven’t heard any updates on the auto whistleblower law over the past month. The bill would authorize incentives to be paid by the Secretary of Transportation on information from auto industry insiders that results in monetary sanctions of more than $1 million. About a month ago, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing in which the law was one of the measures discussed. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate earlier in the year.
At the beginning of this year, the NHTSA put out a call for Takata whistleblowers with information about misconduct by the manufacturer. A former engineer of the company came forward and said he was willing to testify before the congressional committee investigating the defective airbags.
To learn more about the proposed bill, contact one of our whistleblower attorneys via our contact form or by calling 1-800-590-4116.