September 27, 2021

Volume XI, Number 270


September 24, 2021

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Paving the Way for Whistleblowers: NHTSA Improves Whistleblower Program Transparency

To assist whistleblowers with reporting safety concerns, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a new website last month listing frequently asked questions about their whistleblower program.  Whistleblowers protect the public by bringing to light safety-related vehicle and vehicle equipment defects.

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, who is eligible for whistleblower status?

Any employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership may be a whistleblower.

What kinds of issues can whistleblowers report?

From NHTSA’s prior enforcements page, in 2021 NHTSA has already recovered $240 million in civil penalties, including:

  • Untimely reporting of a Kia catalytic converter defect which led to fires in several models and inaccuracy in Defect and Noncompliance Information Report – $70 million total civil penalty

  • Untimely recalls of certain Hyundai models for fuel pipe defects which could lead to fires and other issues with government reporting – $140 million total civil penalty

  • Five untimely recalls and untimely submission of manufacturer communications and field reports cost Daimler Trucks North America $30 million in civil penalties.

Whistleblowers with knowledge of any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or violation of any reporting requirements which are likely to cause unreasonable risk of death or serious injury should step forward and report these issues under the NHTSA’s whistleblower program.

How do awards work?

If the information a whistleblower provides leads to the successful resolution of a legal action, a whistleblower may receive between 10-30% of the money the government collects from the non-compliant vehicle manufacturer or parts supplier.

Are whistleblowers protected from retaliation?

Yes.  Whistleblowers can anonymously report violations.  The Department of Transportation will not reveal the identity of a whistleblower unless either the whistleblower consents to disclosure or certain other conditions are met.

While a forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will cement the program, whistleblowers are encouraged to read the FAQ and submit information on any auto safety violations in the interim.

© 2021 by Tycko & Zavareei LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 196

About this Author

Jonathan K. Tycko leads the Whistleblower Practice Group of Tycko & Zavareei LLP

In recent years, the laws of the United States have undergone a whistleblower revolution. Federal and state governments now offer substantial monetary awards to individuals who come forward with information about fraud on government programs, tax fraud, securities fraud, and fraud involving the banking industry. Whistleblowers also now have important legal protections, designed to prevent retaliation and blacklisting.

The law firm of Tycko & Zavareei LLP works on the cutting edge of this whistleblower revolution, taking on even the most complex and confidential whistleblower...