General Motors has placed two engineers, Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman, on paid leave for their roles leading to the recall of 2.6 million small cars with defective ignition switches tied to at least 13 deaths, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
CEO Mary Barra said in a statement that two engineers had been placed on leave following a briefing from Anton Valukas, the former U.S. attorney overseeing an independent investigation into circumstances leading to the recall. The statement didn’t name the engineers. A GM spokesman declined to comment further on the matter.
“This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened,” Barra said. “It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM.”
Barra has been under increasing pressure to act decisively as facts of the matter emerge. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a hearing last week that she couldn’t understand why DeGiorgio hadn’t been fired.
DeGiorgio and Altman emerged at the center of U.S. Congressional hearings last week in which Barra said it appeared that DeGiorgio had lied under oath during a 2013 deposition in a case brought by the family of a crash victim.
“The data that’s been put in front of me indicates that,” Barra said. He remained employed by GM, she said.
DeGiorgio approved a design change in 2006 that improved the spring in the faulty ignition switch and made it more robust, authorizing its production without fully documenting the decision, according to a letter sent to Barra last week by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
McCaskill during the Senate hearing held up a copy of a document signed by DeGiorgio purportedly showing that he authorized a redesign of the faulty switch on April 26, 2006. She said DeGiorgio lied.
“It’s about time,” McCaskill said in a statement. “Of the many frustrating moments in our hearing last week, an especially surreal one was learning that the GM employee who had obviously committed perjury hadn’t even been suspended and was still on the job in a role with a direct impact on the safety of GM’s products.
“This marks a small step in the right direction for GM to take responsibility for poor — and possibly criminal — decisions that cost lives and put millions of American consumers at risk.”