THE GM RECALL

U.S. probes GM lawyers' role on vehicle recalls, reports say

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- U.S. prosecutors have learned that lawyers for General Motors Co. were present at key meetings during which information about problems with some of its vehicles were discussed, a source close to the investigation told Reuters.

The prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice have asked how lawyers attending those meetings participated in them and what they did afterward with the information that was shared during the meetings, the source said.

GM's legal staff has been under heavy scrutiny since the recall crisis emerged earlier this year. GM's top lawyer, Michael Millikin, was a key part of a U.S. Senate hearing with GM CEO Mary Barra in July -- with Barra being grilled for not firing the chief legal counsel. 

GM issued a report in June that detailed how for 11 years it turned a blind eye to an ignition-switch problem linked to at least 13 deaths but largely pinned the blame on what the report described as incompetent lower-level employees, leaving top brass untouched.

Lower-level lawyers are among the 15 people GM has dismissed in the safety debacle that has resulted in millions of recalled vehicles.

"We're cooperating fully," a company spokesman said.  

The Justice Department was not immediately available for comment outside of regular U.S. business hours.

Employees within the No.1 U.S. automaker's legal department are being scrutinized for concealing evidence from regulators about a faulty ignition switch, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing sources. 

Concealing evidence about the faulty ignition switch could have led to a potential delay in the recall of the affected vehicles, the Journal said.

U.S. senators in July demanded to know why GM did not fire Millikin, after it was revealed this year that the automaker' s litigation department knew of a widespread and deadly ignition flaw but failed to escalate the safety issue.

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