Thursday, February 11, 2010

Regulators, saddle up!

Will the US look into every revolving door to the private sector out of one of its agencies or regulatory units?

To address this would require more attention than the cumulative investigatory power levied in the history of Western Civilization. This is the reality of how things work.

It is also reality when a company faces negative press, its competitors attempt to keep the pressure on, and convince their friends in government to assist them.

In the American West, there was a fine line between "lawman" and an extortion and racketeering expert. (This has been depicted in several romanticized accounts of the Wild West, why I chose the poster of one of the worst Westerns ever made has more to do with the fact the protagonist gang was called "The Regulators")

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Former regulators hired by Toyota Motor Corp. helped end at least four U.S. investigations of unintended acceleration by company vehicles in the last decade, warding off possible recalls, court and government records show.

Christopher Tinto, vice president of regulatory affairs in Toyota’s Washington office, and Christopher Santucci, who works for Tinto, helped persuade the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to end probes including those of 2002-2003 Toyota Camrys and Solaras, court documents show. Both men joined Toyota directly from NHTSA, Tinto in 1994 and Santucci in 2003.

While all automakers have employees who handle NHTSA issues, Toyota may be alone among the major companies in employing former agency staffers to do so. Spokesmen for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda Motor Co. all say their companies have no ex-NHTSA people who deal with the agency on defects.

Possible links between Toyota and NHTSA may fuel mounting criticism of their handling of defects in Toyota and Lexus models tied to 19 deaths between 2004 and 2009. Three congressional committees have scheduled hearings on the recalls.

“Toyota bamboozled NHTSA or NHTSA was bamboozled by itself,” said Joan Claybrook, an auto safety advocate and former NHTSA administrator in the Jimmy Carter administration. “I think there is going to be a lot of heat on NHTSA over this.

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