General Motors Could Face Criminal Charges Over Ignition Switch Recalls

May 26, 2015 07:09 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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There is a good chance General Motors will face criminal charges over how the automaker handled faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 107 deaths so far.

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. are trying to sort things out with the Detroit automaker, like if anyone from GM broke the law and if any fines should be handed out, according to a report by The Wall-Street Journal.

Most experts believe that GM will reach a settlement with the U.S. government, which would see the automaker plead guilty or enter a deferred-prosecution agreement over how it handled one of the biggest automotive scandals in recent history.

In 2014, GM recalled 2.59 million vehicles to replace ignition switches that could disable power steering and air bags. GM supposedly knew about the issue for more than a decade before recalling its small cars to repair the faulty bags.

A deferred-prosecution settlement would probably be ideal for GM since any charges the company would face would eventually be suspended and dismissed.

Cooperation could help GM avoid paying any hefty fines that could reach upwards of $1 billion, according to The Wall-Street Journal.

It could take government officials a couple of years before deciding if GM should be charged or not as Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is still in the early stages of his review in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Company CEO Mary Bara hired lawyer Kenneth Feinberg last year to compensate victims of the faulty switches. So far, his office has approved 107 deaths and 199 injury claims are eligible for compensation, according to the latest post by the compensation

GM has not placed a cap on the amount Feinberg can spend to provide restitution.

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