In recent years, Americans have been plagued with a series of auto defect scandals that have resulted in massive recalls, such as the Takata exploding air bags, Volkswagen emission cheat devices, Toyota’s sudden acceleration cases, and General Motors faulty ignition switches, just to name a few recent scandals. In 2015 alone, nearly 900 recall campaigns were initiated, which affected more than 51 million vehicles. As a result, Congress enacted the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act (MVSWA) with bipartisan support on Dec. 4, 2015. The Act was desperately needed to encourage whistleblowers to report serious violations of federal vehicle-safety laws and reward courageous whistleblowers with a monetary award and retaliatory protection from employers.
Upon the statute’s enactment, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary was provided 18 months to promulgate regulations detailing the new whistleblower program, akin to the similar Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Whistleblower Programs. Therefore, these regulations informing automotive-safety whistleblowers on how to submit tips were due June 4, 2017. However, the DOT Secretary failed to issue the required regulations. This is likely a consequence to the Trump Administration’s executive orders on new regulations.
On Jan. 30, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13771, requiring two prior regulations be identified for elimination for every one new regulation issued. The White House claims the executive order will cause the executive branch to be more fiscally responsible and prudent. However, public interest groups have raised serious concerns regarding the constitutionality of such an order and the negative effects it will have on public health and safety.
In a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 8, 2017, three public interest groups filed suit against President Trump and his Executive administrators for exceeding constitutional authority, violating executive duty under the Take Care Clause, and for directing federal agencies to engage in unlawful actions that will cause harm to countless Americans.
The lawsuit accurately claims that the President has effectively blocked the issuance of and forced the repeal of regulations necessary to protect the health and safety of Americans by mandating two regulations be eliminated for every one regulation issued. Additionally, when considering which regulations to repeal, agencies are instructed to choose two regulations that will offset the costs of the one new regulation. The executive order makes no mention in considering the benefits or harm to public welfare when considering the elimination of a regulation.
Automobile recalls due to safety defects have continuously climbed to record highs since 2014. As a result, Congress worked diligently to pass a bipartisan act that would aid in lowering incidents of safety defects and protect the American people. However, unless the DOT Secretary promulgates the regulations required under the statute to encourage whistleblowers to come forward, little if any progress will likely be made and American safety will continue be in jeopardy. In order to combat the rising trend of automobile defects, it is imperative that the Trump Administration and DOT Secretary act in the best interest of American citizens, and in accord with the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act by issuing the regulations required by the Act.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act is in effect and potential whistleblowers should act quickly in order to timely file a tip with the Department of Transportation. Therefore, it is highly recommended that potential whistleblowers contact a lawyer familiar with the current status of the law. Beasley Allen has a team of lawyers dedicated to whistleblower laws such as the SEC, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and IRS whistleblower programs, and the False Claims Act. Feel free to contact one of the lawyers on our Whistleblower Litigation Team: Andrew Brashier, Archie Grubb, Lance Gould, or Larry Golston. They can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Andrew.Brashier@BeasleyAllen.com, Archie.Grubb@BeasleyAllen.com, Lance.Gould@BeasleyAllen.com, or Larry.Golston@BeasleyAllen.com.
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