Whistleblower who reported safety violations in Hyundai, Kia cars awarded $24M
Hyundai and Kia were under the glaring spotlight of the vehicle safety regulation authority in the United States last year when the car companies were alleged to have ignored potential safety aspects in some of their products. Instead of challenging the allegation, both companies had accepted the order to pay hefty financial penalties running into several million. Now, the whistleblower who had brought the entire matter to light is learnt to have been awarded part of the penalty amount by the US' National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
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Kia and parent company Hyundai had been fined around $210 million after it was brought to light that some of the vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2014 had potential engine defects that, in the worst-case scenario, lead to an absolute failure. Popular models like Sonata and Santa Fe could have been worst affected from this.
Of the total amount, $81 million was paid in cash to the US government. But it is reported that the entire matter may not have come to light had a whistleblower not provided crucial details of the potential defect which led to the strong action against the Koreans in the US.
It is reported that the NHTSA has the authority to send a part of the fine paid by Hyundai and Kia to anyone who can provide clear and concrete details about safety violations in passenger vehicles. In this particular case, the person has been awarded a mammoth $24 million. “Whistleblowers play a crucial role in bringing information to NHTSA about serious safety problems that are hidden from the agency," said Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, in a press statement. “This information is critical to public safety and we are committed to rewarding those who bring information to us."
While whistleblowers are protected by law in the US, the NHTSA is also assisting whistleblowers in providing credible information.