The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has paid a former Hyundai engineer a $24 million reward through the agency’s new whistleblower program.
Kim Gwang-ho, an engineer who worked for the automaker in South Korea, in 2016 reported to the NHTSA that Hyundai wasn’t adequately addressing an engine issue that was causing seizures and fires with potential safety consequences. It also provided it with evidence that led to the automaker paying $210 million in civil penalties for failing to recall the 1.6 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles affected in a timely fashion.
“Whistleblowers play a crucial role in bringing information to NHTSA about serious safety problems that are hidden from the agency,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator. “This information is critical to public safety and we are committed to rewarding those who bring information to us.”
In a statement Kim said “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,”. He further added“I hope my reporting leads to real safety improvements, both at Hyundai and throughout the industry,”.
The payout to Kim is the first under the U.S. Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, passed by Congress in 2015 to create a whistleblower reward program in the Department of Transportation for industry insiders who provide information to safety regulators about defects in vehicles.