WASHINGTON, D.C. – General Motors Chief Counsel and Executive Vice President Mike Millikin testified Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. His prepared opening remarks are below. As always, the speaker’s words are definitive.


Chairman McCaskill and Ranking Member Heller, members of the Committee…

Before I begin, I want to say to those who lost loved ones and to those who were injured – I am deeply sorry. I know we as a company, and I personally, have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.

I am the General Counsel of General Motors Company. I have worked for GM for 37 years.  Prior to that, I was an Assistant United States Attorney, and I clerked for the Honorable Vincent J. Brennan of the Michigan Court of Appeals.

As you are aware, the investigation conducted by Anton Valukas revealed the failures behind the ignition switch recall, including those of the Legal Staff.

When Ms. Barra testified before this Committee on April 2, a number of you, including Chairman McCaskill, raised serious and important questions about the performance of the Legal Staff and our responsibility in this tragedy. As general counsel, I am ultimately responsible for the legal affairs of the company. I am here today to answer these questions.

I first learned about the Cobalt ignition switch defect during the first week of February of this year. I immediately took action. I wish I had known earlier. If I had, I would have taken action earlier.

We had lawyers at GM who didn’t do their jobs; didn’t do what was expected of them. Those lawyers are no longer with the company.

I have taken, and will continue to take steps to make sure something like this never happens again.

The Valukas report contains detailed recommendations for how the Legal Staff can improve and serve an even greater role in meeting GM’s commitment to safety. I am assuring the implementation of each and every recommendation, and I have made and will continue to make other changes to help us improve.

I have, for example:

  • Directed that before any settlement or trial of a case involving a fatality or serious bodily injury, the case be brought to me for personal review, with a focus on any open engineering issues;
  • Reorganized the Legal Staff to foster sharing of information and the identification of emerging trends, including elevating a senior attorney to be the Chief Legal Advisor to Jeff Boyer, Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety, with a direct reporting line to me, and a dotted reporting line to Mark Reuss, executive vice president of Global Product Development;
  • Supplemented existing legal resources with attorneys from two outside law firms to assure the proper level of engagement;
  • Appointed a well-respected outside law firm to conduct a zero-based review of GM’s litigation practices; and
  • Met with the entire U.S. Legal Staff to discuss the Valukas Report’s findings and to set high expectations going forward.

These changes and others will result in greater transparency and information flow on issues of safety within the Legal Staff, as well as between the Legal Staff and the company generally. And, I am committed to making sure I, and GM’s senior management team, have full line of sight into all safety related matters.

GM’s Legal Staff is comprised of hardworking, dedicated professionals of the highest integrity. They strive daily to help global GM achieve its business objectives in a lawful and ethical manner.

They have expressed sincere and deep disappointment, and regret, because of the actions—and inactions— of some individuals within the company, including those on the Legal Staff; who failed the company and our customers.  The GM Legal Staff is dedicated to helping GM become the leader in automotive safety.

We now have to correct our mistakes. And, we are. But this is only the beginning. All of us at GM are committed to setting a new industry standard for safety, quality, and excellence. We must do better. We will do better. I am personally committed to this.

Thank you.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – General Motors CEO Mary Barra testified Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. Her prepared opening remarks are below. As always, the speaker’s words are definitive.


Chairman McCaskill and Ranking Member Heller, members of the Committee…

When I first appeared before you, we were in the earliest stages of the ignition switch recall. I promised you we would get answers and be fully transparent in what we learn. I also said that I would not wait to make changes.

Today, our work to fully understand and fix the mistakes that led to the ignition switch recall is well underway. As a result, we are building a stronger company that places customers and their safety at the center of every aspect of our business.

In a town hall meeting before thousands of GM employees — and several thousand more around the world via satellite — we accepted responsibility for what went wrong. I told the men and women of GM that our actions will be guided by two clear principles: We will do everything within our power to make sure this never happens again. And, we will do the right thing for those who were harmed.

It is on this very important point that I want to begin.

I want to recognize the families who lost loved ones and those who have suffered physical injury because of these mistakes. To each of them, I extend our deepest sympathies. We will not forget them, nor the special responsibility we have to them. We are committed to treating each of them with compassion, decency and fairness. That is why Ken Feinberg will independently administer a compensation plan.

Mr. Feinberg has talked about his compensation program. It is, however, worth noting that he has complete and sole discretion over all compensation awards to eligible victims. And this is important — there is no cap on that fund.

As I stated earlier, we will do all we can to make certain that this does not happen again. We created this compensation program as an exceptional response to a unique set of mistakes that were made over an extended period of time.

The Valukas report was only a start, and many changes were in motion even before we received the findings of the report. I will use the report’s findings and recommendations to attack and remove information silos wherever we find them and to create an organization that is accountable and focused on the customer. I am committed to acting on all of the recommendations contained in the report.

Actions that we have already taken include:

  • We elevated safety decision-making to the highest levels of the company. I created a new position, Vice President of Global Safety. He has full access to me.
  • We removed fifteen employees from the company…some for misconduct or incompetence, others because they didn’t take responsibility or act with a sense of urgency.
  • We instituted the Speak Up for Safety program to encourage and recognize employees to report potential safety issues quickly.
  • We added 35 safety investigators to identify and address issues much more quickly.
  • We aligned the legal staff to help assure greater transparency and information sharing among that staff and other business units across GM.

Overall, we are dramatically enhancing our approach to safety. You can see it in the aggressive stance we are taking on recalls with the redoubling of our efforts.

We are bringing greater rigor, discipline and urgency to our analysis and decision making.  We are mining every source of data available to us from the factory floor to warranty claims to customer calls and social media. We’re not waiting to see if trends develop or updating spreadsheets. We want our customers to know that if we identify an issue that could possibly affect their safety, we will act quickly.

Yes, we’ve recalled large volumes of past models — a result of our exhaustive review coming out of the ignition switch recall. But we also conducted 12 recalls of less than 1,000 vehicles and four recalls of less than 100 this year. This demonstrates how quickly we are reacting when we become aware of an issue.

I also know these recent efforts and the current frequency of recalls have garnered considerable attention. But placing the highest value on our customers’ safety is what our employees want to be known for. We want to stand as the company that is setting the new industry standard for safety.

Our employees will not forget what led to the ignition switch recall — but they do not want to be defined by it. After my town hall, I could hear it in their voices and read it in their messages — they are “all in” to make this a better company.

I believe in them, and together, we have been working hard over the last few months to address the underlying issues that caused this problem in the first place. Since that town hall meeting, I have been inundated with calls and emails from employees telling me that they are more motivated than ever to make GM the best possible company for customers.

This is our mission. It won’t happen overnight but we are holding each other accountable to do exactly that.

Thank you again for having me here today. I welcome your questions.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at 

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