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Senate Passes Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act

May 6, 2015

Author: Daniel W. Wolff.

The Senate last week passed S. 304, entitled the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act. The bill aims to provide incentives to employees of any motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, dealership, or contractor to report concerns to the Secretary of Transportation about any motor vehicle defect or other noncompliance that is likely to cause unreasonable risk of death or serious physical injury. If, on the basis of such information, the Secretary obtains through administrative or judicial process a monetary sanction in excess of $1 million (in the aggregate) against the entity alleged to have caused such defect or other noncompliance, the whistleblower is eligible at the Secretary’s discretion for an award of up to 30 percent of that sanction. This whistleblower award structure is almost identical to that of the Dodd-Frank Act and False Claims Act.

Factors bearing on the Secretary’s discretion include: (a) the whistleblower’s attempt to report the information internally, (b) the significance of the information provided to the Secretary’s obtainment of sanction, and (c) the whistleblower’s assistance in the administrative or judicial process through which the sanction was obtained. Under certain circumstances, such as the whistleblower’s own culpability for the alleged noncompliance, the whistleblower would not be eligible for an award.

The bill has been forward to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for its consideration.

Daniel W. Wolff
Partner – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2621