General Motors settles criminal case over ignition switches

NEW YORK (AP) – The government and General Motors have reached a deal to resolve a criminal investigation into how the Detroit automaker concealed a deadly problem with small-car ignition switches.

General Motors Co. will forfeit $900 million as part of the deal announced Thursday by prosecutors.

GM will also agree to retain an independent monitor to review and assess its policies to ensure compliance with the agreement.

Manhattan’s federal prosecutor says choosing a path on the criminal investigation of General Motors was difficult because there are no specific laws against failing to disclose a car equipment defect.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara also told a news conference Thursday that the criminal probe into the company’s deadly problem with small-car ignition switches continues. He did not rule out charging GM employees criminally.

The prosecutor commented as he announced General Motors was charged criminally with failing to disclose and then misleading consumers about the defective ignition switches. It also was charged with wire fraud for making false safety claims to consumers over the Internet.

A two-count criminal information accusing GM of wire fraud and scheming to conceal material facts from a government regulator will be deferred if GM complies with terms of the deal.

Last year, GM recalled 2.6 million older small cars worldwide to replace the faulty switches. Those included the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion.

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