Try to cook the books in any way, and the Securities and Exchange Commission will come down hard. GM is paying a fine to the SEC not for cooking the books, but for an alleged issue stemming from its ignition switch scandal.
General Motors and the SEC announced today that it resolved a charge of "accounting control failures." The automaker will pay a $1 million penalty without "admitting or denying any wrongdoing," per a GM statement. This fine only relates to the problems with the SEC and is not related to the rest of its ignition switch recall.
Here's what went wrong: The SEC found that GM didn't approach its accountants regarding potential recall-related losses until November 2013, despite GM employees knowing since 2012 that its faulty ignition switches could cause a problem. That affects the company's financial statements during that time, which is why the SEC swooped in.
GM found itself in some real hot water when it first issued a recall for 800,000 cars in 2014 for faulty ignition switches that could potentially move from "On" to "Off," which had the potential for disabling airbags in a moving vehicle. The recall eventually affected about 30 million cars worldwide, and it was discovered that GM knew about the problem for roughly a decade prior to the initial recall. Whoops.