US may charge GM with criminal wire fraud over faulty ignitions

Gm general motors american flagREUTERS/Rick WilkingThe U.S. flag flies at the Burt GM auto dealer in Denver June 1, 2009.

Federal prosecutors are weighing criminal wire fraud charges against General Motors over the company’s failure to recall vehicles equipped with faulty ignition switches, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the newspaper said U.S. prosecutors in New York are considering other possible charges and have not made a final decision. Authorities hope to reach a settlement with the automaker by the end of summer or early fall, it reported.

GM share price was up 0.5 per cent in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, at $US35 per share.

Before the shareholder’s meeting on Tuesday, GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said the automaker has “cooperated fully” with prosecutors and any settlement would be “on their timeline”.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the report and representatives for the U.S. Department of Justice.

General Motors, in a statement to the newspaper, said it is “cooperating fully” with the Justice Department.

According to the Wall Street Journal, prosecutors have determined that the company likely hid information about the switches and made misleading statements, leading authorities to zero in on the wire fraud charges.

It was the latest potential legal problem for the nation’s No. 1 automaker as it continues to grapple with the fallout from the deadly ignition-switch defect in its vehicles that has led to more than 100 deaths and 2.6 million recalls.

Detroit-based GM is already facing various legal action over the defect, although a U.S. judge in April ruled the company could be shielded from some lawsuits.

It also faces more than 4,300 claims for compensation from people who said they suffered injuries related to the faulty switches or from relatives of those killed in related accidents, the lawyer overseeing the program has said.

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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