Hyundai whistleblower awarded $24M for raising safety concerns


Federal transportation officials announced Tuesday they will award more than $24 million to a whistleblower who provided information about safety lapses at Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors.

The issue stemmed from problems with Hyundai’s Theta II engine, which was known to potentially catch fire.

“The whistleblower provided NHTSA with information related to Hyundai and Kia’s violations of the Safety Act,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a news release.

The NHTSA said it also found that Hyundai and its Kia subsidiary delayed the recall of affected vehicles and provided inaccurate information about the problems.

According to Reuters, former Hyundai engineer Kim Gwang-ho in 2016 reported Hyundai to the NHTSA, saying the company was not doing enough to address issues tied to the engines.

Law firm Constantine Cannon said Kim has earned the biggest award in a whistleblower case in the auto sector globally, according to Reuters.

“I am pleased that I have been justly compensated for the risks I took to protect owners of these defective cars, and grateful that the U.S.’s legal system had a program in place to make this possible,” Kim said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I hope my reporting leads to real safety improvements, both at Hyundai and throughout the industry,” Kim added.

The payout to Kim is the first under the U.S. Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act. 

The law, which Congress passed in 2015, creates a program where whistleblowers can be rewarded for providing information to safety regulators about defects in vehicles.

Hyundai and its U.S. units agreed to pay a record $210 million civil penalty last year after the NHTSA found the automaker failed to recall vehicles for engine issues in a timely fashion.

Tags corporate whistleblower law Hyundai Motor Co. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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