Three whistleblowers will share $1.7 million for warning the government about Takata Corp.’s dangerous violations of federal safety laws and providing a substantial amount of information that helped the government make its case against the corporation, according to Insurance Journal. The three men are former employees of Takata, the maker of tens of millions of defective airbags.
As of April 2018, automakers have recalled approximately 50 million defective Takata airbag inflators, with more recalls expected in the next year. Millions of airbags have yet to be replaced, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a crash airbag inflators can over-pressurize and explode sending metal shards tearing into vehicle occupants. The defective inflators, which have been used by 19 different automakers, have been blamed for 23 deaths and more than 260 injuries worldwide.
After news of the injuries and deaths caused by exploding Takata airbags became public in 2014, several former Takata employees turned over evidence that showed the company had known about the dangers associated with their use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant since 1998 and had manipulated data to conceal ruptures during testing. Mark Lillie, former Takata propellant engineer, and the only one of the three to make his name public, provided evidence that he warned the company that the use of ammonium nitrate would be deadly. Two anonymous whistleblowers provided evidence of the data manipulations.
The Source of the $1.7 Million
The payment will come from a reserve fund Takata set up when it filed for bankruptcy. The employees might also receive compensation from the government, thanks to a 2015 law called the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act (Act).
Under the Act, an auto-industry employee who notifies the government of vehicle safety violations and provides evidence that leads to the government recovering financial sanctions over $1 million against the wrongdoer corporation can get between 10 and 30 percent of any civil penalties that exceed $1 million.