NEW YORK/WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether General Motors is criminally liable for failing to properly disclose problems with some of its vehicles that were linked to 13 deaths and led to a recall last month, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
The probe is in its early stages, and the source did not elaborate on the legal theory behind the potential criminal liability.
Federal investigators are reviewing information about how GM handled reports of problems with ignition switches that first came to light 10 years ago, according to the source.
The source did not want to be named because the probe has not been disclosed publicly.
GM declined to comment on Tuesday.
Shares of GM closed down 5 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Manhattan probe adds to a growing list of U.S. authorities examining the recall, which GM announced in February. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) previously opened an investigation into whether GM reacted swiftly enough in its recall.
Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters reported that a U.S. Senate committee chairman is seeking a hearing on the issue. Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee asked GM and NHTSA to turn over information about GM’s ignition switch problems.
The problems in some instances allowed the engine and other components, including front airbags, to turn off while the vehicle was traveling at high speed. More than 1.6 million older vehicles are affected.
The failure is believed to be caused when weight on the ignition key, road conditions or some other jarring event causes the ignition switch to move out of the “run” position, turning off the engine and most of the car’s electrical components mid-drive, with sometimes catastrophic results.
GM has recommended that owners use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring.
Reporting by Emily Flitter in New York, Aruna Viswanatha in Washington and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Phil Berlowitz