(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Hide No Harm Act of 2015, legislation that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers. Under the legislation, any officer who conceals such information could face up to five years in prison and/or potential fines and any individual who reports potential danger to a federal regulatory agency or officer would be provided a safe harbor from criminal liability. This bill follows the settlement reached last month between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and General Motors (GM), which found no officers criminally liable for knowingly concealing information about a lethal safety defect that has caused more than 170 fatalities.
Blumenthal said, “We cannot continue to condone blatantly deceptive and immoral behavior – for too long, individuals who deceive the public and cover up information about dangerous or deadly products have gotten away with little to no penalties. This measure would put in place common-sense, long-overdue reforms to ensure officers are held responsible for dishonorable acts that put lives at risk. We cannot afford to repeat cases like GM and Takata where no one was held accountable for actions that resulted in over 170 deaths. We owe it to the victims and their families of the preventable tragedies to ensure that justice will be served for anyone complicit in future cover-ups.”
“This legislation will work to provide an additional measure of accountability when dangerous products harm workers,” Senator Casey said. “The GM ignition switch recall impacted families across Pennsylvania. The impacted families in Pennsylvania and across the nation deserve justice. This legislative effort is a step in that direction.”
“After the disgraceful GM settlement, it’s imperative that the Hide No Harm Act be made law,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. “We need to make clear to corporations and corporate executives that they will face criminal prosecution if they hide product and workplace dangers from government regulators and the public. And we need to make it clear to prosecutors that they have no excuse to let giant corporations off the hook with cost-of-doing business fines that fail to punish, deter or provide justice to victims of corporate crime.”
Ellen Bloom, Senior Director of Federal Policy and the Washington office of Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said, “When a company hides the truth about dangerous products, the people in charge often get away with little, if any, punishment. Under this bill, people who know about deadly defects and cover them up would be brought to justice. It’s the right prescription for an outrageous problem. The Hide No Harm Act would raise the bar for safety and accountability, and we commend the senators for their leadership on this important issue.”
“Countless numbers of workers and citizens have suffered and died because companies withheld and hid information on the dangers of products and exposures like asbestos. This bill would hold corporate officials personally responsible for their role in these deaths and injuries, help stop corporate concealment and save lives,” stated Peg Seminario, Safety and Health Director at AFL-CIO.
In addition to GM and Takata, concealment by other corporations has also resulted in deaths and injuries. Executives at Second Chance Body Armor knowingly manufactured and sold deficient ballistic vests to law enforcement and the military for nearly five years, resulting in two documented incidents of ballistic failure during firefights. Additionally, executives at Simplicity for Children knowingly allowed defective cribs to remain on the market, resulting in at least 11 infant deaths. In these cases, the corporate officers who knowingly concealed the defects suffered very few penalties, if any.
Full text of the Hide No Harm Act of 2015 can be found here.