The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that new testing is prompting Takata Corp to declare and additional 2.7 million air bag inflators defective.
Takata’s cover-up that as many as 70 million of its airbags were potentially lethal was among the worst cases of corporate misconduct in last year, according to the American Association for Justice.
AAJ, a nonprofit group of plaintiff attorneys, recently released its year-end 20-page report. It took aim at corporations for putting profits over safety and at the limited regulations to keep them in line.
“The misconduct highlighted in this report is a stark reminder that corporations will stop at nothing to protect their profits — even if that means putting consumers and workers at risk,” said Kathleen Nastri, AAJ’s president.
The Takata case, which triggered the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, was particularly significant to Detroit because the Japanese auto parts maker sold airbags to multiple auto companies, including BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.
Takata, which has its regional headquarters in Auburn Hills, pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and agreed to pay $1 billion in penalties and fines. The defective airbag case was linked to at least 20 deaths and more than 180 injuries.
In addition to the Takata case, the AAJ report listed eight other examples it considers egregious:
- United Airlines, based in Chicago, forced a passenger, David Dao, off a plane, violently removing him to make room for United personnel. Dao, a doctor, suffered a concussion, broken nose and lost two front teeth in the incident.
- Monsanto, a St. Louis-based agriculture corporation, ghostwrote scientific reports that led the Environmental Protection Agency to conclude that a chemical in its weed killer, Roundup, did not cause cancer.
- A massive lobbying effort by Wall Street banks to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from banning forced arbitration in the fine print of credit card clauses, which, AAJ said, requires card users to give up their right to sue the company in court.
- Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, charged more than 800,000 customers for auto insurance they didn’t need or know about, according to AAJ. Of those customers, as many as 274,000 of them were delinquent in payment, and nearly 25,000 had their cars wrongfully repossessed.
- New York-based Fox News paid $50 million to settle a string of sexual harassment and discrimination claims. After an internal investigation, it fired its chairman Roger Ailes and, later, one of its hosts, Bill O’Reilly.
- Top executives at Equifax, an Atlanta-based credit-reporting agency, sold $1.8 million-worth of company shares after a massive security breach that compromised Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdays and driver’s license numbers; but waited two months to disclose the hack.
- Johnson & Johnson, based in New Jersey, is defending tens of thousands of lawsuits claiming the company sold dangerous products, including talc, drugs and artificial hips. The suits allege that the products caused injuries, sickness — and deaths.
- McKesson, a New York drug distributor, failed to report suspicious narcotics orders leading to a $150 million fine to settle a Justice Department case and is being accused in lawsuits of flooding the market with prescription opioids.
“While these stories may be the most high-profile examples of corporate misconduct, they are hardly isolated incidents,” the AAJ report said. “Each story is a result of a corporate culture that ratchets up sales quotas and growth goals, incentivizing fraud, unwittingly or not.”
Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or email@example.com.
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