Last year, American financier Steven Rattner was appointed by President Obama to oversee the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. Among his ideas was to recommend complete immunity for both companies, covering all product liability lawsuits involving the millions of cars then on the road.
In fact, both companies would have received this unprecedented and unjust benefit had it not been for considerable pressure from consumer groups and car crash victims. Here is an excerpt from one consumer group letter:
Respectfully, the Obama Administration’s backed Chrysler and GM bankruptcy plans are unsafe at their current speed because they contain legal loopholes that will shield Chrysler and GM from being held accountable for defective cars and take away a critical public safety protection that has been used to reduce the number of Americans hurt or killed from defective Chrysler and GM vehicles. This means that a time bomb is now ticking for many families driving these cars.
No thanks to Mr. Ratter, the companies eventually gave in – but only partially. Both GM and Chrysler decided to accept responsibility for the accidents caused by its defective cars, but only if the accident occurred after the date of the bankruptcy. In other words, they continued to thumb their nose at hundreds of loyal customers with injury suits already pending, like: Jeremy Warriner, whose legs were so badly burned by a fire in a Chrysler vehicle that they had to be amputated, or Brian and Christina Catalano, whose mother was killed by a Chrysler minivan that “self-shifted” into reverse, dragging her under the car, or Patrick James, whose daughter was killed in a dangerous Chrysler van that flipped over. Many of these victims traveled from great distances to Washington DC to plead with their members of Congress. See some of their stories here.
So, we do find it rather ironic that today, New York Attorney General (and Governor-elect) Andrew Cuomo, filed two lawsuits against Mr. Rattner, seeking $26 million and lifetime ban from the New York’s securities industry, for “paying kickbacks in order to get a $150 million investment from a New York pension fund for his private equity firm....’Steve Rattner was willing to do whatever it took to get his hands on pension fund money including paying kickbacks, orchestrating a movie deal, and funneling campaign contributions,’ said Cuomo in a release. ‘Through these lawsuits, we will recover his ill gotten gains and hold Rattner accountable.’”