It is clear from the testimony and written reports we have seen thus far that GM's General Counsel had a duty to ask about -- and find out about -- both serious safety problems with GM cars and litigation against GM over car safety. There is no way he could have represented the company in its disclosure to shareholders, or in connection with car safety issues, without affirmatively seeking out this information. He apparently did not do so.
The CEO of a company that stresses safety as a top priority has a similar obligation to ask thorough questions about such matters, not simply wait until others do or do not report problems to her.
On top of this, we have now learned about millions of dollars of “secret settlements” that were so secret that the CEO and General Counsel of GM did not even know about them. That was probably because they did not want to know, or did not care whether they knew about such settlements – they approved of policies that did not require them to be told. That alone is unacceptable.
Resignation or removal of these two officers would send the message that GM's directors insist on at least some down-the-ladder due diligence as well as up-the-ladder reporting.