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Federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether General Motors is criminally liable for failing to properly disclose problems with some of its vehicles that were linked to 13 deaths and led to a recall of 1.6 million vehicles, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
The probe is in its early stages, and the source did not elaborate on the legal theory behind the potential criminal liability.
Federal investigators are reviewing information about how GM handled reports of problems with ignition switches that first came to light 10 years ago, according to the source.
The source did not want to be named because the inquiry has not been disclosed publicly.
GM declined to comment on Tuesday.
The Manhattan investigation adds to a growing list of U.S. authorities examining the recall, which GM announced in February. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously opened an investigation into whether GM reacted swiftly enough in its recall. On Tuesday, a House committee gave GM and NHTSA two weeks to provide details of how they handled the recall.
An Associated Press review of an NHTSA database found that drivers started submitting complaints about the problem in early 2005, shortly after the first Chevrolet Cobalt went on sale. The review of complaints about the Cobalt, GM's top-selling small car in the mid-2000s, found 173 instances of engine stalling or air bags failing to deploy, both symptoms of the ignition problem. Many drivers reported problems with keys sticking in the ignition in addition to the stalling.