Two U.S. Senators introduced a bill that would give fines or prison sentences to executives at automakers who hide safety problems or recalls. The Hide No Harm Act of 2014 was introduced by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) would make it illegal for, "a corporate officer to knowingly conceal the fact that a corporate action or product poses a danger of death or serious physical injury."
The Hide No Harm Act is a direct response to the General Motors ignition switch recalls; reports suggest that GM executives and engineers attempted to cover up problems with ignition switches that led to deaths and injuries when cars shut off unexpectedly, disabling the airbags. The Senators also aim the Hide No Harm Act at manufacturers of other consumer products, citing the example of a company that hid the fact that its bulletproof vests might not be effective, but it's clear automotive recalls are the main focus.
"The problems with the ignition switch in GM vehicles have had a significant impact on Pennsylvania families. It’s not enough for GM to say it's sorry. We have to reform our laws so that those with the power to act are held accountable when they don’t," Senator Casey said in a statement.
In addition to fining executives who hide problems, the Hide No Harm Act would create "safe harbor" provisions for those who notify government agencies about safety defects, protecting the reporting person from criminal liability.
The Hide No Harm Act's introduction comes as GM CEO Mary Barra and attorney Kenneth Feinberg face another round of Congressional hearings today over the ignition switch recall and the possibility of a cover-up. Reuters reports that federal prosecutors are gathering evidence to decide whether to bring a criminal fraud charge over the ignition switch recall.