GM Near Huge Settlement on Faulty Ignition Switches
Defect blamed in 124 deaths and 273 injuries
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2015 7:00 PM CDT
Sources say GM could be fined up to $1 billion in a settlement over faulty ignition switches that resulted in more than 120 deaths.   (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

(Newser) – Officials expect General Motors will be fined hundreds of millions of dollars in a settlement over faulty ignition switches that resulted in 124 deaths and 273 injuries, NBC News reports. A settlement between GM and the Justice Department could come as early as tomorrow, though the Wall Street Journal—citing "people familiar with the matter"—warns any deal could still fall apart. Last year, the government accused GM of taking too long to disclose the ignition switch problem in violation of federal law, NBC reports. The government alleges GM knew about defect—which could shut off the car's engine without warning, disabling airbags and power steering and brakes—for more than a decade before finally reporting it.

The Journal reports the settlement will likely come with a charge of criminal wire fraud against GM for making misleading statements and hiding information about the problem. For example, a government report found GM avoided using the word "stall" when discussing the issue to avoid people thinking it was a safety problem. According to sources cited by the Journal and NBC, GM will be fined somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. The amount is expected to be less than the $1.2 billion Toyota was fined in a similar case last year because GM cooperated with the government investigation, the Journal reports. According to NBC, GM has already paid out at least $1 million to each victim or victim's family.