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Expert Witness and Well-known Corporate Law Professor Richard W. Painter Discusses Internal Investigation of GM

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Richard W. Painter
Professional Overview

Recent hearings in the House and Senate are showing that GM already knew about some of the recent defects in the ignition switches in some of its vehicles. However, this information was not shared with other parts of the company, which has led to deaths that could have been prevented. We sat down with Richard W. Painter, an influential corporate law professor at University of Minnesota Law School, who has very insightful opinions regarding the case with GM.

According to an article featured in Corporate Counsel, GM In-House Lawyers Pulled Into Ignition Switch Probe, Mr. Painter told Reuters that if GM wanted to reassure shareholders, it should hire an independent law firm. "But they may want to disclose just enough to keep shareholders informed, and keep other things private to keep legal defenses available to them." Does he believe this is GM's best option given their current situation? "I cannot answer that question without more information - information that GM knows that I do not - about the company's liability exposure."

"GM spokesman Selim Bingol told Reuters there is no conflict of interest, and Valukas" [outside counsel Anton Valukas of Jenner & Block who is leading the internal probe for GM] "has been charged to go where the facts take him and give the company an unvarnished report on what happened. He is the ideal person to do that, given his understanding of our business and his reputation for adhering to the highest standards." Does Mr. Painter disagree with Selim Bingol? "No. For some purposes, Jenner & Block may be the ideal firm for this investigation even if the firm is not as independent of GM as some other firms might be."

After graduating from law school, Mr. Painter clerked for Judge John T. Noonan Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He later practiced at Finn Dixon & Herling in Stamford, Connecticut, and Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City.

Mr. Painter has served as a tenured member of the law faculty at the University of Oregon School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law, where he was the Guy Raymond and Mildred Van Voorhis Jones Professor of Law from 2002 to 2005.

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