When last we heard about the beleaguered, killer automaker, fresh emails revealed that GM knew about its safety defect problem earlier than previously disclosed—including early enough for the Obama administration to start dumping shares ahead of the first recall. Well, enough is enough for the state of Arizona, which just became the first state to sue over the cover up:
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said civil penalties could be up to $10,000 per violation. Hundreds of thousands of “unsuspecting” car owners and lessees had been driving unsafe vehicles, he said in a statement.
Arizona argued consumers lost money because GM vehicles fell in value. It also said GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, while head of product development, was informed in 2011 of a safety defect in the electronic power steering of several models.
“Despite 4,800 consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repairs, GM waited until 2014 to disclose this defect,” the filing said.
Arizona had been part of a multi-state effort to deal with “New GM,” which claims it cannot be sued for the sins of the old company that the Obama administration saved with lavish application of taxpayer money. Apparently Arizona’s AG decided not to wait any longer. The state seeks $3 billion in damages.
The theory of the civil suit is fraud, which is pretty hard to contest at this point. Individuals in the company were aware of the ignition switch problem. They just didn’t want to do anything about it, resulting in several deaths and a great deal of property damage. I expect Arizona won’t be the last state to sue.