Between spying on reporters and navigating new state marijuana laws, the U.S. Department of Justice has been preoccupied with some strange things lately. So it’s nice to see DOJ getting back to basics – corporate crime and corruption
Today, a federal grand jury in North Carolina “will begin hearing evidence on whether North Carolina regulators looked the other way when toxic coal ask leaked from Duke Energy power plants. Coal ash is the sludge left over when coal is burned to make electricity, and there was a massive leak of its last month in the Dan River.” According to the Raleigh News Observer, “Federal prosecutors have issued at least 23 grand jury subpoenas” and the grand jury is “set to meet behind closed doors from Tuesday to Thursday in the federal courthouse in Raleigh to examine documents, video and other materials with the Duke executives and 18 current and former N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources employees summoned to the hearing.”
As we noted in an earlier post, North Carolina officials essentially blocked citizens suit, which were filed against Duke over these coal ash sites. The governor, who worked for Duke for 28 years, intervened apparently for the sole purpose of protecting the company. And since our post, we have also learned that, “[i]nternal emails between staff at North Carolina’s environmental agency show state regulators were coordinating with Duke Energy before intervening in efforts by citizens groups trying to sue the company over pollution leeching from its coal ash dumps.” Hopefully, voters have a long memory.
And then there’s GM. Yesterday, another 1.5 million vehicles were recalled after last month’s recall of 1.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches. GM’s new chief, Mary Barra, said in a new apology video, “Something went wrong with our process in this instance, and terrible things happened.” But this new "mea culpa" attitude might not be enough to stop criminal indictments.
Last week, DOJ "launched a criminal investigation into whether an ignition defect linked to 13 fatalities was ignored by General Motors for over a decade before it launched a massive recall last month.” Notes Bloomberg, “Besides the U.S. Justice Department probe, GM must answer to Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Transportation Department and lawyers the company hired to investigate itself.” And also, their victims. Last Friday, “the first U.S. class action related to the ignition-switch recall” was filed in Texas federal court.” We'll keep you posted.