SEOUL/WASHINGTON — The U.S. auto protection regulator announced on Tuesday its initial-at any time reward to a whistleblower, handing out far more than $24 million to a previous Hyundai personnel who delivered vital facts about protection lapses at the South Korean carmaker.
The award to ex-Hyundai Motor engineer Kim Gwang-ho is the most important at any time in a whistleblower circumstance in the auto sector globally, according to law organization Constantine Cannon, which represented Kim.
It arrives as the U.S. regulator, the Nationwide Highway Visitors Security Administration (NHTSA), and the U.S. Office of Transportation prepare to propose rules relevant to an automotive whistleblower method Congress produced in 2015.
Kim documented to NHTSA in 2016 that Hyundai was failing to handle a design flaw linked to its Theta II engines, which have been inclined to seizing up and even catching hearth.
“This award is the utmost proportion authorized by law,” NHTSA said in a statement asserting the award.
“Whistleblowers engage in a vital part in bringing facts to NHTSA about significant protection troubles that are concealed from the agency,” said Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator.
Citing an internal report from Hyundai’s high-quality tactic crew to management, Kim had explained to NHTSA the company was not using more than enough action to handle an engine fault that elevated the hazard of crashes.
NHTSA found that Hyundai and its Kia subsidiary had delayed recalling affected autos, and that the automaker had delivered inaccurate facts about the troubles.
In 2020, Hyundai and Kia’s U.S. models agreed to a record $210 million civil penalty just after NHTSA said they unsuccessful to remember autos for engine problems in a well timed fashion.
“I am happy that I have been justly compensated for the threats I took to secure owners of these defective automobiles, and grateful that the U.S.’s lawful program had a method in place to make this doable,” Kim said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I hope my reporting qualified prospects to genuine protection advancements, both of those at Hyundai and all through the market,” he added.
In 2017, U.S. protection regulators began to examine if the recalls had coated more than enough autos and have been finished in a well timed fashion. That followed the problems documented by Kim to the U.S. auto protection regulator.
The payout to Kim is the initial less than the U.S. Motor Car Security Whistleblower Act, passed by Congress in 2015 to generate a whistleblower reward program in the Office of Transportation for market insiders who supply facts to protection regulators about defects in autos.