Automotive whistleblowers incentivized under introduced legislation

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced legislation last week that would allow auto industry employee whistleblowers to be compensated for voluntarily revealing information on faulty products.

“By encouraging employees in the auto sector to speak up about auto safety problems, we can help prevent injuries and even deaths for American drivers,” Thune, the current ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the incoming Commerce Committee chairman, said. “This bill will ensure that more Americans are aware of faulty parts in their vehicles sooner and better protect the traveling public.”

The Thune-Nelson bill allows employees of auto manufacturers, dealerships and parts suppliers to receive up to 30 percent of any penalties from a Department of Transportation or Justice Department action that totals more than $1 million.

In exchange for the compensation and protection of identity, the employees would report information relating to any defect, noncompliance or violation not previously known by the Department of Transportation.

The legislation is modeled after existing whistleblower protections tied to the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Announcement of the bill occurred on the same day the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the recall of defective Takata air bags, which have been linked to five deaths.