NHTSA pays $24 million to anonymous whistleblower in first-ever award under the Vehicle Safety Act

by Ben Vernia | November 11th, 2021

On November 9, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it had awarded $24 million (the maximum 30%) to an unnamed whistleblower who had alerted the agency to issues involving Hyundai and Kia cars. According to NHTSA’s press release:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced it is making its first ever whistleblower award. NHTSA will give more than $24 million to a whistleblower in connection with information provided to NHTSA related to Hyundai Motor America (Hyundai) and Kia Motors America (Kia). This award is the maximum percentage allowed by law of the $81 million in cash collected by the United States and is the first award NHTSA has issued under its authority.

The whistleblower provided NHTSA with information related to Hyundai and Kia’s violations of the Safety Act. In November 2020, NHTSA issued Consent Orders with Hyundai and Kia reflecting the agency’s assessment that both Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta II engines and inaccurately reported crucial information to NHTSA about the nature of serious defects in the engines. The combined penalties in the Consent Orders amounted to $210 million, $81 million of which was paid in cash to the United States government. By statute, NHTSA may award a maximum of 30% of collected monies to a whistleblower found to contribute significant information to an action that results in penalties of more than one million dollars.

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