| WASHINGTON, July 16
WASHINGTON, July 16 General Motors Co has
appointed an outside law firm to investigate its legal
department, which is under fire for its role in the company's
mishandled ignition switch recall, the automaker's top lawyer
will announce at a Senate hearing.
Lawmakers and safety advocates have questioned why GM
lawyers, who repeatedly settled cases involving the
malfunctioning ignition switch, did not relay concerns about the
part to the wider company and prompt a recall.
Instead, the automaker took more than 10 years to recall
millions of vehicles outfitted with the deadly ignition switch,
which can slip from the "run" to the "accessory" position,
causing the engine to stall, airbags to not deploy, and a loss
of power brakes and power steering.
So far, GM has attributed 13 deaths and 54 crashes to the
Michael Millikin, the general counsel of GM, said the
automaker has appointed a "well-respected outside law firm to
conduct a zero-based review of GM's litigation practices,"
according to written testimony prepared for the Senate Commerce
subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
He did not name the firm.
Millikin also said that he has reorganized the legal staff
to report directly to him, in response to criticism that GM's
organizational structure barred top executives from learning
about the flawed part earlier.
Now, whenever GM reaches a settlement or goes to trial on a
case involving a fatality or serious injury, Millikin said he
will review the case for engineering issues.
GM has fired 15 employees for delaying the recall, including
"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," Millikin said in the prepared testimony.
Millikin is expected to receive harsh questioning from
members of the Senate committee at Thursday's hearing, where he
will be testifying along with GM Chief Executive Officer Mary
Barra and others.
(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)