GM plans to launch its compensation program for victims and families

Nation Briefs 06-06-14 GM plans to launch its compensation program for victims and families Published:

DETROIT -- General Motors plans to launch a program to compensate crash victims or families affected by an ignition switch problem that is linked to at least 13 deaths in crashes of older GM cars.

The company said it expects the program will start accepting claims Aug. 1, but didn't specify how much money will be involved. Guidelines and other details will be developed in the coming weeks by compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, GM said.

GM has recalled 2.6 million older small cars to repair the ignition switches. A report issued Thursday said it took GM more than a decade to issue the recall partly because employees improperly viewed the switch defect as a "customer satisfaction" issue instead of a safety problem.

GM announced the hiring of Feinberg in April. He previously handled the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund as well as funds for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP oil spill.

Feinberg told Associated Press that the timeline means "I have my work cut out for me." During the next few weeks, he said he'll speak with plaintiff's lawyers, lawmakers, public interest groups and GM officials.

"I'll propose some ideas based on my experience that will form the basis for a ... compensation program," he said.

CEO Mary Barra said Thursday the report by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas found a pattern of incompetency and neglect, but not a cover-up, at the heart of the Detroit automaker's long delay in dealing with the faulty switches. GM forced out 15 employees for their role in the deadly scandal.

Barra said the company would "do the right things for those who were harmed" and "everything in our power to make sure this never happens again."

Concern for Bergdahl led to secrecy: Fears the Taliban might kill Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl if word leaked that he was being exchanged for five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees drove the Obama administration not to notify Congress in advance about the deal, according to congressional and administration officials. There was no overt threat but rather an assessment based on intelligence reports that Bergdahl's life would be in jeopardy if news of the exchange got out and the deal failed, two senior U.S. officials familiar with efforts to free the soldier said Thursday. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment by name.

Senate confirms Burwell: New management, same problems. Sylvia Mathews Burwell was confirmed Thursday as the nation's new health secretary, but she'll have to act quickly to head off more insurance chaos this fall. The 78-17 Senate vote was a bipartisan show of support for the veteran government manager who most recently served as President Barack Obama's budget director. Burwell's attention will immediately turn to the Health and Human Services department's newest mission: covering the uninsured under Obama's health care law. Despite a strong finish to open enrollment this year, HealthCare.gov is still dealing with unresolved issues ranging from possibly inaccurate insurance payments to e-commerce basics. The White House desperately wants to avoid more attention-grabbing problems when sign-up season starts Nov. 15.

UAW announces new assignments: The United Auto Workers' new president, Dennis Williams, announced assignments for the union's officers Thursday. Secretary treasurer Gary Casteel was assigned to Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and the transnational organizing and UAW finance departments. Vice president Jimmy Settles was assigned to Ford Motor Co. and the aerospace department. Vice president Cindy Estrada was assigned to General Motors Co. and independents, parts and suppliers. Vice president Norwood Jewell was assigned to Chrysler, General Dynamics Corp., agricultural implement and heavy truck departments.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.