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Aug. 26, 2016

Takata and GM Prove Corporations Cannot Be Trusted to Regulate Themselves

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

In a tragic, but all too common, tale of big corporations putting profits before people, GM tried to save just a few dollars per airbag in its vehicles. The result was that 14 people died and more than 100 people were injured. GM was no victim of Takata Corporation’s missteps; both companies put cost savings above all other concerns.

This case shows that corporations cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. When left to their own devices, GM and Takata’s cost considerations trumped the safety of their customers and the public. The executives responsible for this lethal corporate penny-pinching belong behind bars, both as a matter of justice for the victims and their families, and as a deterrent to executives who show similar disregard for the safety of their customers.

But we know that regulation itself is not sufficient, because the regulators are underfunded, often too close to industry, and even in the best case scenario can’t be everywhere. That’s why there must be criminal enforcement against corporations and executives that kill people through reckless decision making. We need much more aggressive prosecution. We also need stronger criminal laws.

The Hide No Harm Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would make it a crime for corporations and company executives to knowingly conceal dangers that threaten consumers or workers, and should be made law. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs stronger powers, including criminal enforcement authority and a bigger enforcement budget.

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