Takata airbag scandal whistleblowers share $1.7M payday

It pays to be a narc sometimes. Other times, you just get shanked.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
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Reps. Pallone And Schakowsky Hold News Conference Addressing The Massive Takata Airbag Recall
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

If it weren't for three whistleblowers, who knows how Takata's awful airbag scandal would have played out. For their roles in helping uncover some serious malfeasance, they're being rewarded -- big time.

Three individuals who helped the US government in its case against Takata have received equal shares of a $1.7 million payout, Reuters reports. Mark Lillie and two anonymous individuals will be paid out of a fund Takata established during its bankruptcy proceedings, which came in the wake of the largest automotive recall in history.

Massive Airbag Recall Prompts Safety Concerns
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Massive Airbag Recall Prompts Safety Concerns

There are still millions of vehicles on the road that require replacements for their faulty Takata parts.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lillie, a former engineer at Takata, provided the government evidence that the parts supplier knew its airbag inflators were dangerous as early as 1999. One of the anonymous whistleblowers worked for a nearby manufacturer and helped prove that Takata attempted to cover up the dangers its parts posed.

Takata ended up in a hell of its own creation thanks to faulty airbag inflators, which are the parts that cause airbags to inflate during a collision. The parts lacked a moisture-absorbing desiccant, and when exposed to high humidity, the parts turned faulty, exploding in a cloud of shrapnel instead of inflating the airbag.

Nearly two dozen have died and hundreds have been injured as a result. Nineteen automakers had to recall 50 million airbag inflators, only 40 percent of which have been repaired thus far, and Takata ended up filing for bankruptcy.

This might not be the only payday for these three, either. All have attempted to receive awards through the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which allows the government to award money to those who help uncover big issues in the automotive industry. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not finalized the rules for the program, so no money has been awarded yet, but that could change in the future.