New General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) CEO Mary Barra certainly earned her seven-figure compensation today, as she faced a group of more than 20 members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation to answer questions about the delayed recall of 2.6 million vehicles after reports of a faulty ignition leading to deaths and injuries.
Many members of the committee were borderline hostile to Barra, and interrupted and cut Barra off several times during the hearing. On several occasions Barra tried to follow up on “yes” and “no” answers by focusing on the “new General Motors” rather than the pre-bankrupt company that knowingly approved the faulty ignition switches.
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Statements from General Motors’ CEO Barra
“Today, if there’s a safety issue, we take action,” Barra replied to a question from Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., regarding how General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) balances cost and safety. “(If) we know there is a defect on our vehicles, we do not look at the cost associated with it. We look at the speed in which we can fix the issue.”
Barra also said the “new General Motors” does not even consider costs when it comes to safety concerns: “That is not acceptable…We moved from a cost culture after the bankruptcy to a customer culture,” she said unequivocally.
In an unexpected development, Barra also hinted at payouts to victims and victims’ families in her testimony. “We do understand we have civic responsibilities as well as legal responsibilities,” she replied after being asked how the company would handle the pre-bankruptcy crashes.
Kenneth Feinberg hired by General Motors
In her testimony, Barra also said General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has hired Kenneth Feinberg as a consultant to evaluate options for the families of victims.
“Mr. Feinberg is highly qualified, and is very experienced in the handling of matters such as this,” Barra said. “He brings expertise and objectivity to this effort, and will help us evaluate the situation and recommend the best path forward.”
Feinberg is by far the most respected name in victim compensation issues, having represented the victims of 9/11, the BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill and the Boston Marathon bombings.