Whistleblower Gets $24 Million in First Ever Award From National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently awarded its first-ever whistleblower reward to a former Hyundai safety engineer who brought forth allegations involving engines that could freeze up or catch fire.

Kim Gwang-ho, the NHTSA whistleblower, received $24.3 million for reporting the faulty engines, the largest award ever granted in an automotive whistleblower case and the maximum amount available under the law, according to AL.com.

Understanding the Case

In 2016, Kim reported to the NHTSA that Hyundai knew of a design flaw in its Theta II engines that caused the engines to seize up or catch fire, but the car manufacturer failed to take appropriate steps to address the issue.

The NHTSA ultimately found that Hyundai and Kia (which is affiliated with Hyundai) moved too slowly to recall more than 1.6 million vehicles with the Theta II engines and reported inaccurate information regarding the engine defects.

The penalties assessed to the two South Korean car manufacturers amounted to over $210 million, $81 million of which went to the U.S.

The NHTSA Whistleblower Program

Under the Vehicle Safety Act, the NHTSA may award between 10% and 30% of any penalties of more than $1 million to a whistleblower whose information leads to the successful resolution of an enforcement action for violations of law.

Whistleblower information that can result in NHTSA awards may include knowledge of potential vehicle safety defects, noncompliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and violations of the Vehicle Safety Act.

Moreover, any employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership is eligible to be a whistleblower for the NHTSA

The Road Ahead

 In blowing the whistle on Hyundai and Kia, Kim Gwang-ho did not just save vehicle owners potentially several million dollars in repair costs, he also saved countless lives. As an NHTSA whistleblower, you could have the same impact.

Price Armstrong has extensive experience representing whistleblowers against some of the world’s largest corporations. Our mission is to not only maximize our clients’ recovery, but to offer protection and counsel at every step of the way.

If you are an employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership and know of potential safety risks, design defects, noncompliance with safety standards, or violations of the law, you may have a claim as a whistleblower under the Vehicle Safety Act. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and review of your case.