Thune, Nelson Applaud Senate Passage of Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act

April 28, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)  today applauded the U.S. Senate passage of S. 304, the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent after the committee approved the bill on February 26th..

Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson, who jointly introduced the legislation, released the following statements:

"This bill provides important incentives for whistleblowers in the auto industry to bring safety concerns to the attention of federal regulators when harmful safety defects are not reported,” said Thune. “While laws and regulations currently provide certain penalties for unaddressed safety failures, this legislation seeks to help identify and stop problems before anyone is killed or seriously injured.”

“We’ve learned from recent events that the auto industry was not forthcoming about defective products or risks to consumers,” said Nelson. “This bill would reward insiders who become whistleblowers.”

The Thune-Nelson bill allows employees or contractors of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships to receive up to 30 percent of the monetary penalties resulting from a Department of Transportation (DOT) or Department of Justice enforcement action that totals more than $1 million if they share original information not previously known to the DOT relating to any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or any violation of reporting requirements that is likely to cause risk of death or serious injury. 

The bill takes 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, which was first introduced last November, is modeled after existing statutory whistleblower protections that encourage individuals to share information with the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act aims to enhance motor vehicle safety efforts and to continue to ensure auto companies are accountable for the safety of their vehicles. This legislation is in response to the more than 60 million vehicle recalls in 2014 and builds on the Commerce Committee’s investigation and hearings into both the GM ignition switch defect and the Takata air bag defects, both of which resulted in loss of life and serious injuries to drivers and passengers in a host of vehicles.

Click here for the text of S. 304. Sens. Heller, McCaskill, Klobuchar, Ayotte, Moran and Blumenthal are original cosponsors of the legislation.

The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration.