G.M.'s Top Lawyer To Advise CEO On Capitol Hill

G.M.'s Top Lawyer To Advise CEO On Capitol Hill Photo: Ritcheypro via Wikimedia Commons General Motors Co. headquarters in Detroit

General Motors Co.’s top lawyer will be on Capitol Hill this week to guide CEO Mary Barra through two congressional hearings about the automaker’s recall over ignition-switch problems, a company spokesman confirmed.

General Counsel Michael Millikin will advise Barra today as she testifies at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations. The hearing is called “The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?”

Barra’s written testimony to the subcommittee points to an internal investigation into the company’s handling of complaints related to sudden vehicle shutdowns that led to at least 13 deaths. Millikin is coheading that probe with former Chicago U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, chairman of Jenner & Block.

G.M. last week issued a recall on 1.6 million cars to check for faulty ignition switches after more than 10 years of consumer complaints that engines and power systems would suddenly shut down—a bug that also disabled air bags.

“As soon as l learned about the problem, we acted without hesitation,” Barra said in the written testimony. “We told the world we had a problem that needed to be fixed. We did so because whatever mistakes were made in the past, we will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future. Today’s G.M. will do the right thing.”

Millikin also will advise Barra as she testifies Wednesday before the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance at a hearing called “Examining the GM Recall and NHTSA’s Defect Investigation Process.”

There are a number of legal issues to navigate during the hearings. There’s a possible criminal inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice into the timeliness of G.M.’s response to consumer complaints, and a National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration investigation into the same issue. Plaintiffs lawyers across the country are lining up aggrieved clients to sue G.M., which until now has been steadily recovering from its 2009 bankruptcy and government bailout.

Millikin, a Michigan native, has been part of the G.M. legal team since 1977 and general counsel since July 2009, according to his company bio.

Contact Todd Ruger at truger@alm.com. On Twitter: @ToddRuger.

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