The Law Firm of Piacentile, Stefanowski & Malherbe LLP

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act’s First Whistleblower Reward

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act Whistleblower Program is one of the newest whistleblower laws in the United States. It is so recent that it was approved in 2015 and it is still technically a work in progress since the required guidelines are still being developed right now. This Act allows employees and contractors of motor-vehicle manufacturers or parts suppliers to report any serious violations of federal safety laws and regulations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and incentivizes this by awarding those who blow the whistle. The program rewards them with anywhere from 10% – 30% of any money recovered from a successful action that leads to the recovery of over $1 million. The great thing about this law is that it allows for retroactive whistleblowing. For this to be so, the vehicle or component must have been sold in the US and there must be jurisdiction. If so, the whistleblower qualifies for rewards under the program.

Recently, the first ever reward under the program was paid out to a whistleblower. The reward went to a former Hyundai Safety Engineer, Gwang Ho Kim. Kim realized that Hyundai and Kia hid a critical engine defect from US regulators and bravely enough traveled directly to DC to file a claim that led to the recall of over 1.6 million unsafe vehicles. Reporting these violations was not the easiest act, since once he notified the companies about his intentions, he was immediately fired. They began harassing him and his family as well. Thankfully, Mr. Kim was brave enough to commit to guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of consumers worldwide and for his efforts, he received and award of $24.3 million dollars.

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