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Senators call to have GM legal counsel Michael Milliken fired

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Although she praised GM CEO Mary Barra for the way in which she has handled the company’s enormous recall scandal, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has called for the immediate firing of General Motors’ Executive Vice President and chief legal counsel Michael Millikin after reading the conclusions of an internal report written by outside attorney Anton Valukas.

McCaskill, a former prosecutor, now chairs the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance investigating General Motors’ mishandling of its recall of millions of cars with faulty ignition switches, particularly after it was discovered that the automaker knew about the problem for more than a decade before taking action this past February. Since then, the company has issued 54 separate recalls involving a total of 29 million vehicles for safety issues. In fact, McCaskill stated that she could not comprehend why Milliken and one of his top aides are still with the company.

“Either this is a case of gross negligence, or gross incompetence on the part of GM’s lawyer,” she stated following fellow lawmaker, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)’s demand that all of the documents presented to Valukas be released to the public, as well as unsealing previous settlements for lawsuits filed against the automaker. Blumenthal has also questioned whether GM would “waive the legal shield that has protected it from related lawsuits regarding crashes that occurred prior to its filing for bankruptcy in July 2009. In each case, Milliken answered “no.”

GM had filed a motion in Federal district court in Corpus Christie, TX last April asking the judge to delay action in regard to a lawsuits filed against, including one by Charles and Grace Silvas until the bankruptcy court in New York ruled whether their case should be combined with other lawsuits. According to their lawyers, they wanted the court in New York to “enforce an order made during the 2009 bankruptcy case that split GM into a ‘new company and an old company’ by determining that claims from before the bankruptcy would go to ‘Old GM,’ (aka Motors Liquidation Co.), while any legal claims filed after the bankruptcy would go to the ‘new’ General Motors Company. The Silvas had sought restitution for the ignition defect in the 2006 Chevy Cobalt.

“This is either a case of gross negligence, or gross incompetence on the part of this attorney, and I think the failure if of GM’s legal department is stunning,” added McCaskill.