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The GM report: Despicable behavior

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Saturday, June 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

So this is what American taxpayers saved when they bailed out General Motors and lost more than $11 billion in the process: a company whose default position was “incompetence” and “neglect” and whose culture fostered a climate of nod-nod, wink-winkism and lying by omission.

Once, what was good for GM was good for America. But what was good for GM in this case killed Americans.

A damning report, commissioned by GM and written by former U.S. Attorney Anton R. Valukus, concludes that the automaker did just about everything wrong that could be done wrong to avoid a recall as evidence mounted that faulty ignition switches on some vehicles led to either 13 fatal crashes (as GM still claims) or three score (as circling lawyers contend).

And while GM claims the report found no “conspiracy or cover-up” among top company officials, the language in the report clearly shows such behavior — manifested through indifference and silence for more than a decade — among not-so-junior underlings, 15 of whom have been fired. Five others were disciplined.

“Although everyone had responsibility to fix the problem, nobody took responsibility,” Mr. Valukus concluded. And that's the kind of behavior incubated at the very top.

Whether GM can survive the report's conclusions and its own tardy admissions now is a serious question. But taxpayers, burned first in a rigged bankruptcy and burned for a second time in this scandal, shall not be burned thrice.

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