Akerson Claims No Knowledge Of Ignition Switch Issues During GM Tenure

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Last week, the B&B learned from former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson that current CEO Mary Barra did not know about the ignition switch that has since given his old company a months-long headache. The B&B then asked if Akerson himself knew of the problem on his way to be at his wife’s side and that of his colleagues at The Carlyle Group.

Automotive News reports the answer is “No.” In a post on Forbes magazine’s blog, both he and GM chair Tim Solso claim they didn’t know about the ignition switch issues at the heart of the February 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles. Akerson stated that if he had known about the problem, Barra would have been made aware as he handed the reins of the automaker to her in late December 2013. Solso says he didn’t become aware until after Barra called him to let him know the bad news, having become a non-voting member of the board in the following January.

On the judicial front, Bloomberg says GM wants the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to handle every lawsuit related to the ignition switch recall, citing that the federal judge in Manhattan would be able to confer with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber — who handled the 2009 bankruptcy that separated the automaker from its old assets — throughout the litigation process. The request, made before the seven-member U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Chicago, was met with resistance by the 14 lawyers also in attendance. The group protested the idea that proximity to GM’s favored bankruptcy judge would be a benefit to their clients, with Rudy Gonzales of Corpus Christi, Texas firm Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP suggesting the district court in Texas would be the better venue.

Within the Beltway, GM asked another federal judge to keep confidential information related to its bankruptcy out of the hands of the Center for Auto Safety, who sued the U.S. Treasury in 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act for the records detailing where and how everything went wrong in the handling of the out-of-spec ignition switch. The automaker claims that it has a right to protect its “interests in its own business information” that it says goes above and beyond what it thinks the consumer-advocacy group has a right to request from it and the Treasury.

Finally, Automotive News reports Anton Valukas, the former U.S. attorney hired by GM to independently investigate the recall, has given his findings to the automaker for presentation this week. Barra reportedly informed Congress in April that she gave Valukas “free rein” to hunt down what he needed without roadblocks in the way. As a result, a number of questions regarding information suppression, collusion, and who knew what and when during the decade-plus period surrounding the switch will likely be answered in the lead-up to victim compensation, which is headed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg. The report itself could be in the size and scope of his report on the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which came in at 2,200 pages.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • Gardiner Westbound Gardiner Westbound on Jun 02, 2014

    If Akerson didn't know about the dangerous ignition switch issue, he should have known.

  • Wmba Wmba on Jun 02, 2014

    Well, Akerson's management style appeared to be that he was smarter than anyone who had ever worked at GM, and that he was not open to suggestions. No, he issued ORDERS. So we got the 2013 Malibu in light hybrid form first, and Akerson obviously never sat in the back seat. With a twit like that in charge, who would be willing to bring up the ignition switch debacle? Akerson would shoot the messenger - he didn't want to hear bad news from the past. The path forward was glory and a book to tell all the idiots out there how brilliant HE was. So really, it devolves to the snake-biting Ed Whitacre. Did he know? Did he tell Akerson when he left? The lack of knowledge at the top never surprises me. At the large company I worked at, it was policy to handle things yourself and not bother the Prez. He had other important things to do, hah, hah. No doubt the same thing at GM. At Ford, nobody has yet got around to telling Mulally about his products being at the bottom of CR's reliability list, in the otherwise all sweetness and light cooperation of the new dawn - at least, that's my take, or presumably he'd do something about it. Big companies are like that. The big egos in charge never get told dirty details, so they can have plausible deniability. Barra is truly out of luck in that regard, so junior staff will get thrown under the bus instead.

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