Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

GM CEO Barra Says She Will Not Replace Her General Counsel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

GM CEO Barra Says She Will Not Replace Her General Counsel

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Senators pressed General Motors CEO Mary Barra to fire her company's top lawyer, who testified Thursday that GM engineers and lawyers knew about faulty ignition switches that resulted in fatal crashes long before he did.

The confrontations came at a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. She led a parade of senators, including Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who, while commending Barra for other reforms she has instituted in the beleaguered company, seemed mystified why Michael Millikin is still GM's general counsel.

"The culture of coverup and whack-a-mole to minimize liability in individual lawsuits killed innocent customers of General Motors," McCaskill said.

In his first public comments since the faulty switches became public earlier this year, Millikin told the committee that "I immediately took action," when he first learned of the problems in February.

"Had I learned about it earlier I would have taken action earlier," Millikin said. "We had lawyers at GM who didn't do their jobs, didn't do what was expected of them. Those lawyers are no longer with the company.

"I have taken and will continue to take steps to make sure something like this never happens again."

A GM-commissioned investigation by Anton Valukas, a former U.S. attorney in the Northern Illinois circuit, concluded that GM's legal staff was reticent in sharing settlement details of claims against the company and didn't disclose the escalating problems with ignition switches to engineers or top company executives.

Based on that, McCaskill told Millikin she did not understand how he kept his job. She told Barra that while "I think you have done a lot of good work" since Barra became CEO last year, "this is either gross negligence or gross incompetence on the part of the lawyers."

Barra defended Millikin, who was sitting next to her at the witness table.

"I have made the promise to fix what happened in the company," Barra said. "To do that I need the right team, and Mike Millikin is a man of tremendously high integrity. He is the person I need on this team."

Faulty ignition switches in GM-made cars have been linked to at least 13 deaths, including that of a woman from north St. Louis County . The faulty switches would cause the car to shut down suddenly, losing all power, and failing to deploy air bags upon crash. …

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