Published On: 2.20.2015 North Carolina

New Criminal Penalties for Corporate Officers Who Hide Information on Dangerous Products


U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), along with Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) have introduced a new bill in Congress to close loopholes that protect corporate officers who hide information on dangerous products. Their “Hide No Harm” bill intends to hold corporate officers criminally accountable for concealing serious dangers or defects that lead to consumers’ deaths and/or injuries. The penalty for “hiding harm” could include lengthy jail time.

The recent General Motors ignition switch recall scandal led to the bill. A congressional committee’s documents clearly showed many GM officials were aware of the defective part problems as early as 2001. Under existing law, company officers who knew of the deadly defect – but did not inform the authorities or the public  – cannot face criminal charges. A company’s civil penalties often do not have much effect on their irresponsible actions (GM received a slap-on-the-wrist fine of just $35M).

Unfortunately, GM is not the only offender. Other situations where corporate officers withheld information include:

  • For over five years, Merck hid information on the risks of Vioxx, a potent painkiller, from doctors that resulted in over 140,000 heart attacks
  • Eleven babies died in Simplicity Cribs where company officials knew that their products were  defective
  • Toyota officials knew that defective gas pedals in millions of its cars had caused unintended acceleration which resulted in numerous fatal accidents. The company admitted that it failed to alert the public or federal agencies for years.

“Our current fines and penalties are not tough enough to ensure that every business is playing by the same rules,” said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government and CSS co-chair. “We have to make sure that the businesses that are willing to put the health of the American people at risk face heavy sanctions. The bad actors should not have a competitive advantage over responsible businesses that adhere to health and safety standards.”

Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel with Consumer Federation of America, said: “This bill will provide an important deterrent to companies and their executives who knowingly sell and distribute unsafe products to consumers. The consequences to consumers can be dire while the consequences for companies may be negligible. This legislation seeks to ensure that the consequences of selling an unsafe product are significant.”

We Can Help

The experienced Personal Injury attorneys at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates provide free initial consultations, support and assistance in finding resources to help you and your family deal with serious injuries or death as a result of defective or dangerous products. We can also help you pursue a legal action. If you or a family member would like more information about your legal options and determine whether you have a claim, call our office today at 704.376.1911 or toll-free 800.977.3077…. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.