Three whistleblowers will be splitting a $1.3 million dollar reward for bringing the defective airbags made by Takata to the attention of regulators. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss this issue.

Transcript:

Mike Papantonio: Three whistleblowers are gonna be splitting $1.7 million in a reward for bringing the defective airbags … that, the story behind the defective airbags that were made by Takata, bringing that to the attention of the regulators. The truth behind this story is, the regulators had plenty of information to begin with, and they did what all regulators in America do today, they did nothing.

Takata … the regulators that were looking at the Takata airbag absolutely knew how dangerous it was, they understood that the airbag would explode, it would send shrapnel into the heads, in the bodies of people that were caught in the middle of that. It blows up, but it doesn’t just blow up and cause a problem that’s a minor problem. It burns the individual, it throws shrapnel into their eyes, into their head. That’s related to this. Okay, look, here’s the point.

Whistleblowers that worked for the company came in and said, they knew about it. Pick up.

Farron Cousins: Well, the three whistleblowers in this particular case, they had been working with the regulators, but this, as you pointed out, was after the regulators were pretty aware of what was happening with Takata, didn’t wanna do much of anything about it. Takata’s one of the biggest airbag producers in the world, not just in the United States, in the world. So they kind of sat on the issue. But now that these whistleblowers had come forward with this information, showing Takata knew about it, they covered it up, they did not fix the problem, they built it into the cost of doing business, we know X amount of people are going to die, we’re gonna pay settlements for it, but that’s gonna be cheaper than recalling 30-40 million vehicles because we’ve essentially placed IEDs in their steering wheels …

Mike Papantonio: Very well, but the …

Farron Cousins: … instead of airbags. And so these whistleblowers, had they not come forward with this, what we would have seen was the regulators dragging their feet on it a little bit longer, a few more deaths, I think right now it’s at 22 people have died. Countless injured …

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, injuries.

Farron Cousins: … from this.

Mike Papantonio: Loss of eyes …

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: Yes. But here’s the point. Here’s what’s really creepy about this story. There are 59 million airbag inflators out there. 59 million, of all different vehicles. At this point, there’s only been 21 million that have been recalled and fixed. So you’ve got all these airbags still out there, being sold, used cars, people don’t have any idea … Person goes, buys a car that’s a few years old, they don’t think about, “Well, here, did I check out the Takata airbag?” And then the downside of that is the recall doesn’t really get through to ’em, so they’re driving around, as you point out, with an IED in their car.

What’s bothersome a little bit … well, very bothersome to me, is you had these … They collected a billion dollars in a settlement, okay? Now follow this. They collect a billion dollars. The people who actually gave them the material, and … just here it is, government, finally do your job. Department of Justice, actually do something instead of just talking the game. Go out and do something which the Department of Justice is deplorable about, they rarely do their job where it comes to going after white collar criminals. So here they fine, really they fine the Takata folks for a billion dollars, and at this point nobody’s gone to prison, have they?

Farron Cousins: No, absolutely not. And they never will.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Farron Cousins: Even if Takata intentionally …

Mike Papantonio: Well, they did.

Farron Cousins: … made their airbags to do this …

Mike Papantonio: Well …

Farron Cousins: … nobody would still go to jail, because that’s how it is. And these fines of a billion dollars, two billion dollars, $500,000,000, it doesn’t matter what it is, because they’ve got that money sitting in the bank, ready to be paid off in fines, because they’ve made four, five times that in profit, and it is what they call the cost of doing …

Mike Papantonio: Okay.

Farron Cousins: … business.

Mike Papantonio: How about this, though? Takata knows … Here’s what they’ve done. This is what the documents show. They concealed reports that they knew about the bag would explode and kill people. They concealed reports where they knew that. They subverted testing procedures, where people within the company were saying, “You need to do more testing, because what we’re looking at now looks really bad.” And they falsified data. When the tests were done they would make up phony-up data to make it look like there wasn’t a problem. Now, understand, they killed people. This is … this is no … this is manslaughter, here. This is the equivalent of somebody drinking a fifth of whisky and driving 100 miles an hour through a school zone. This is manslaughter. The DOJ does not have the guts, they don’t have the backbone to say, “These people are murderers. Why don’t we prosecute somebody? Why don’t we throw somebody in jail?” It’s much easier to just take the billion dollars and business goes on as usual.

Farron Cousins: Yeah, because that’s money … and we’ve done stories about this in the past, that’s money that they then get to use for their offices. To an extent, they do keep a portion of it …

Mike Papantonio: … for themselves.

Farron Cousins: … and they work that into their budget now. “Now, my agency has more money to go and play with.” Whereas you don’t get that when you throw somebody in prison.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, yeah. I got about two minutes. Look, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was back in the headlines this past week, after he called for a repeal of the Second Amendment, a move that has Conservatives freaking out. The gun stores must be going crazy right now. Look, this … I think is a bad move by Stevens.

Farron Cousins: Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio: I think you would agree. Explain … I think we probably agree … what is your take on what Stevens did here?

Farron Cousins: Well, following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School we finally had a national discussion, because of the kids there that got active and made this discussion happen. But we finally get the discussion. We’re getting a little bit of legislation here and there. In Florida, and other states, that’s starting to work on it. It’s not gonna fix it, but we’re getting a little bit better at gun control. Bump stocks might get banned, but then you have John Paul Stevens, a Republican Justice, by the way, who says, “You know what? Let’s just ban the Second Amendment, and then just get rid of it all.” And that just set back this conversation …

Mike Papantonio: Okay, look …

Farron Cousins: … and the progress.

Mike Papantonio: Fair … explain how difficult it is to change anything constitutional. People don’t get this. What is it, you have to have two thirds … ? You gotta have two …

Farron Cousins: Two thirds of both the House and the Senate …

Mike Papantonio: … and the Senate … to do anything Constitutional.

Farron Cousins: And then it’s gotta get passed …

Mike Papantonio: Three … Was it three quarters?

Farron Cousins: Three quarters of the State legislature, which would be 38 States.

Mike Papantonio: We’re talking about virtually impossible. Here’s the real talk … This case can be won, it has to be won under the police powers. You have to take item by item, and say, “We’re taking away the bump stock because … ” The Second Amendment, first of all, if you assume it is real, that people are supposed to have guns, even if it is, police powers, health, safety and welfare, give us a superior position in the argument. We’re gonna trump the Second Amendment, because we believe that health, safety and welfare of our people here in Florida, using a bump stock, that those people are at a greater risk. So this could be won, but to suggest that we’re gonna win it by a constitutional amendment … Stevens knew exactly how way out there that was. It can be won.

Farron Cousins: And it fires up the other side way too much …

Mike Papantonio: Oh, yeah.

Farron Cousins: … when we finally make progress.

Mike Papantonio: They’re crazy now, the gun stores are jam packed.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.