GM employees questioned by U.S. attorney under ignition switch probe, reports say

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

DETROIT (Reuters) -- Federal prosecutors are interviewing present and former General Motors employees as part of their criminal probe into the automaker's ignition-switch problem that has been linked to at least 13 deaths, two sources said.

Since early this year, the company has been enveloped in a scandal over why it took more than a decade to begin recalling Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars with the problems that were causing the vehicles to stall during operation.

The sources said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office had asked people to come in for interviews.

GM has turned over thousands of emails and other documents to help in the probe, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Friday, citing sources.

Last week the company dismissed 15 employees, including several high-ranking executives, for their roles tied to faulty ignition switches in older cars.

Several states are also investigating the delayed recalls.

The federal and state investigations are still in their early stages, the Journal said, adding prosecutors have yet to indicate to defense attorneys which individuals they might focus on.

Defense lawyers told the Journal that one of those employees in particular, Raymond DeGiorgio, appears to be the most exposed to possible criminal liability, based on information about the case released publicly to date.

DeGiorgio, a midlevel engineer in charge of designing the ignition switch, approved a sub-standard switch design and then quietly changed it without telling anyone following numerous complaints from customers and other engineers at GM.

He later misled GM officials about changing the product, hampering efforts to connect the flawed part to numerous accidents, a report from former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas concluded.

DeGiorgio, contacted Friday by the Journal, declined to comment on his involvement with the ignition switch recall.

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