The New York Times headline was dominated by a seemingly strong word: “G.M. Is Fined Over Safety and Called a Lawbreaker.”
As I will explain, however, the seeming strength of the label “lawbreaker” is undercut by the rest of the title, the text of the article, and the reality of the Justice Department’s refusal to apply the rule of law to powerful domestic corporations and their controlling officers.
The first discordant note is the word “safety.” The article reports that GM, for the purposes of avoiding the expense of repairing a design defect that endangered the lives of its customers, covered up the defect and caused the death and injury of a number of those customers. The article does not report the (minor) cost of GM fixing its design defect. The article does not report on the number of people who were injured and killed because GM designed a defective ignition system, knowingly hid the defect from its customers and the government, and once it knew that its defective design was injuring and killing its customers GM deliberately covered up the existence of the defect and the cause of the easily avoidable injuries and deaths. The article states that GM was finally required to recall 2.6 million vehicles due to the defective design of the ignition switches.