GM’s Mary Barra’s Testimony – A Missed Opportunity (Updated 4/7/2014)

I hope you were able to see some of GM’s Mary Barra’s televised congressional testimony this week. From a legal defense perspective her testimony was acceptable except possibly for one statement – when she said that GM was moving or had moved from a cost culture to a consumer culture.  I would not have advised that approach or statement.

But Ms. Barra’s testimony was a missed opportunity as she was unable or unwilling to discuss even the most elementary facts relating to the number of vehicles sold compared to the number of vehicles with alleged or actual problems, some information about what is being done to evaluate and determine causation and damages and to resolve cases as each case must be looked at separately, and perhaps new risk management, quality and safety processes that are now in place.  And certainly I must believe that GM did have some risk management, quality and safety processes in place originally, even if they were inadequate.

Clearly there are issues and facts that Ms. Barra could not discuss either because she did not know or because further evaluation and investigation were needed or because of legal and liability consequences. But there should have been sufficient time to prepare Ms. Barra for more testimony than she gave.  And her unwillingness or inability to discuss even elementary facts that aren’t in dispute, even facts that could be seen as helpful to GM or helpful in getting GM out of this mess, risk leaving Ms. Barra looking ineffective and un-executive and arguably may further arguments of possible coverup or at least lack of transparency.

I will have more to say on resolving this mess in later posts.  For now, you can find additional discussions and videos on the internet.  And here are two links to articles following Ms. Barra’s testimony: click here, and click here.  And click here for an article about an unscientific test of the ignition switch – perhaps explaining the issue in a better perspective with information that might have also been available to Ms. Barra and her advisors.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco)

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