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GM hires Valukas of Jenner & Block for internal recall probe

Posted Mar 11, 2014 7:02 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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General Motors has hired Jenner & Block chairman Anton Valukas to help lead an internal investigation of its delayed recall related to faulty ignitions.

Valukas will work with general counsel Michael Millikin to investigate the automaker’s handling of complaints about the faulty ignitions, which are linked to 13 deaths, report Reuters, Bloomberg News and Corporate Counsel (sub. req.). King & Spaulding will also aid the investigation.

Valukas, a former U.S. attorney, also investigated the collapse of Lehman Brothers, determining that the financial services firm was insolvent weeks before it filed for bankruptcy. King & Spaulding represented GM in some of its bankruptcy proceedings.

The announcement of an internal probe comes as a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee said it would investigate the slow recall, the New York Times reports. GM says it became aware of the ignition issue in 2004. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received more than 260 complaints over 11 years about the ignitions shutting off while cars were being driven. The initial recall was Feb. 13, though it later expanded.

Hofstra University law professor Monroe Freedman suggested that law firms with close working ties to GM could have a conflict in the investigation, according to the Reuters account. "A reasonable person might question whether the firm wants to curry favor with GM, so it can maintain a good relationship or obtain future work,” he told the wire service.

But New York University law professor Stephen Gillers told Reuters that the firms’ client knowledge would bring efficiencies that that speed the investigation.

GM spokesman Selim Bingol told Reuters that Valukas “has been charged to go where the facts take him” and there is no conflict.

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