MVSWA: Motor Vehicle Safety

The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act

The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act (49 U.S.C. § 30172), which became law in January 2016, provides financial incentives to insiders to come forward to identify serious safety-related problems in the automotive industry. The statute is designed to encourage individuals with inside information to report violations of federal vehicle-safety laws, and provides for awards of 10% to 30% of the monetary sanctions imposed by the government if the recoveries are based upon information provided by the whistleblowers. 

The MVSWA defines “whistleblower” as

 

“. . . any employee or contractor of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership who voluntarily provides to the Secretary original information relating to any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or any violation or alleged violation of any notification or reporting requirement of this chapter, which is likely to cause unreasonable risk of death or serious physical injury.”

 

The law is designed specifically to identify major safety issues, and whistleblowers are eligible to claim awards only in cases in which sanctions exceeding $1 million are imposed in judicial or administrative actions conducted by the Department of Justice or the Department of Transportation.  Awards are available to individuals who provide “original information” – i.e., information derived from the whistleblowers’ “independent knowledge and analysis” that was not publicly available or previously disclosed to the Secretary of Transportation by some other source.

 

Like other whistleblower incentive laws, the MVSWA recognizes that workers within an industry take significant professional and personal risks by stepping forward to expose wrongdoing or negligence.  Accordingly, the statute includes provisions that protect whistleblowers from retaliation and permits them to maintain their anonymity when reporting safety violations. 

 

The text of the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act can be found here.

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