U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) today introduced legislation (S. 2949) that would incentivize employees from the automotive sector to voluntarily provide information on faulty products to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to prevent serious physical injuries and death. In the 114th Congress, Thune is in line to become the Commerce Committee chairman, and Nelson is in line to become the ranking member. U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada), the leaders of the Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on consumer protection, are cosponsors of the bill.
The Thune-Nelson bill would allow employees or contractors of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships to receive up to 30 percent of the monetary penalties resulting from a DOT or Justice Department enforcement action that totals more than $1 million if they share original information not previously known to the DOT secretary relating to any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or any violation of any reporting requirement that is likely to cause risk of death or serious injury.
“By encouraging employees in the auto sector to speak up about auto safety problems, we can help prevent injuries and even deaths for American drivers,” said Thune. “This bill will ensure that more Americans are aware of faulty parts in their vehicles sooner and better protect the traveling public.”
“It took years for problems with faulty ignitions and defective airbags to fully come to light,” said Nelson. “If ever there was a time to encourage industry insiders to speak out, it is right now.”
“It has taken too long for this vital information of defective products to reach the surface,” said Heller. “This legislation is intended to save American lives by removing these vehicles from the road. In the majority, I will continue to focus on auto safety and work with my colleagues, Senators Thune and Nelson, to insure safety on the road remains a top priority of this committee.”
“In my experience as an auditor, and in my work to boost accountability and oversight of government, whistleblowers are absolutely critical to rooting out waste, fraud, and misconduct,” said McCaskill. “This is a commonsense, bipartisan effort that we should all be ready to get behind to keep drivers safe and better protect American consumers.”The Thune-Nelson bill will take into account whether or not the whistleblower had the opportunity to report the problems internally, as well as the significance of the information. It will also protect whistleblowers’ identities. The legislation is modeled after existing statutory whistleblower protections that encourage individuals to share information with the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission.