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Mary Barra Hears 'Much Harsher Tone' In 2nd Day Before Congress


April 02, 2014, 1:57 PM The New York Times

Mary Barra, enduring a second day of congressional grilling, may feel as though a combat allowance is part of her $1.6 million a year in base pay.


Mary Barra is hammered Wednesday with questions about possibly illegal acts by GM. (AP photo/Evan Vucci)

Senators are pounding GM's chief executive on Wednesday, according to The New York Times and other media. She was summoned to explain why GM didn’t react to signs dating back to 2001 that Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and similar vehicles had faulty ignitions. The company has recalled 2.2 million vehicles in the last two months. Thirteen deaths and 32 crashes have been linked to the defect.

Here's how Bill Vlasic and Matthew L. Wald describe today's session it in The Times:  

Wednesday’s hearing had many of the same trappings as Tuesday’s hearing before a House panel, . . .  but the hearing had a much harsher tone, as senators more aggressively questioned Ms. Barra’s contention that the cars are safe to drive and doubted her statement that the company had moved from a culture of cost-cutting to one of safety and a focus on the consumer.

“If this is the new GM leadership, it’s pretty lacking,” Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, later adding: “The culture that you are representing today is a culture of the status quo.”

Ms. Barra was inundated with questions abut the legality of GM's behavior, particularly whether the company intentionally withheld documents from lawyers representing families suing the automaker. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said he expected the company to come under intense scrutiny by investigators from the Justice Department.

“GM has a real exposure to criminal liability,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “I think it’s likely that GM will face prosecution.”  

Another journalist at the Senate hearing, Marisa Schultz of The Detroit News' Washington bureau, tweets that three "female sens . . . [are] toughest on Barra."

In its coverage by Schultz and David Shepardson, The News gives this example:

“If this is the new GM leadership, this is pretty lacking,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., expressing frustration. “You don’t know anything about anything.”

She invoked the fact that Barra is the first woman to run a major automaker: “As a woman-to-woman, I am very disappointed.”

Boxer read Barra’s resume from her 33-year career at GM and repeatedly questioned why she didn’t know anything at various points, saying it was “very strange” that a high-level executive wouldn’t know.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat chairing the hearing, said GM's “culture of cover-up” let an engineer "repeatedly lie under oath" last April in a civil case and discouraged quick action on fixing the defect. “Corporations think they can get away with hiding documents” from people suing over defects, the senator said, according to The News.

Barra confirmed that the engineer, Ray DeGiorgio, still works at GM.

Read more:  The New York Times


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