General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) is revamping its legal department, according to report from Bloomberg based on information from people with knowledge about the situation. The goal is to remove the hurdles that caused the delay of the recalls of millions of cars related to the defective ignition switch on GM vehicles. Those defective switches reportedly led to 13 fatalities.
According to one of the sources, the automaker’s general counsel, Michael Millikin, wants to ensure that the coordination of information about defects will be faster between departments, and he appointed a legal adviser to work with General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)’s heads of global safety and vehicle development.
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According to Bloomberg’s sources, North America General Counsel Lucy Clark Dougherty was assigned to provide legal advice to Jeff Boyer, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)’s newly appointed head of global safety.
General Motors: More changes expected after internal investigation
Millikin is expecting to implement further changes following the completion of the internal investigation over the coming weeks, according to the sources, who requested anonymity.
Bloomberg suggested that transforming the legal culture within General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) will be challenging because the automaker’s in-house lawyers spent their careers fighting to keep potentially incriminating safety information from the hands of trial lawyers.
The media outlet reviewed internal documents in one case and found that lawyers tried to hide an internal memo about the automaker’s computation of costs related to fuel-fed fire deaths. Last week, an internal memo released by the U.S. government showed that employees were discouraged from using words that could be used against General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), such as “decapitation,” “deathtrap,” “eviscerated” and “mutilating.”
Millikin has no plans to retire
General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) recently stated that Millikin, who will be turning 66 in August, has no plans to retire, and he will remain in his position “at an important time for the company.”
Millikin joined the automaker’s legal department in 1977. He became associate general counsel in 2005, at the time when the problems regarding the ignition switch surfaced. He is currently co-leading the internal investigation of General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) along with Anton Valukas, chairman of Jenner & Block LLC, a law firm. The sources described Valukas as person who follows facts where they lead and believes that there are no “sacred cows.”
General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) also engaged the services of law firm King & Spalding LLC to help in the internal investigation. The firm has a long history working with GM, and it was involved in the fuel-tank litigation in the 1970s.
The United States government is also investigating General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and wants to find out the reasons why it took the company a decade to recall the vehicles with defective ignition switches.