Next month in New York, General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra will make her highest-profile public appearance since testifying before Congress on the GM recall crisis.
Barra will appear on Sept. 23 at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York. The philanthropic group founded by former President Bill Clinton works with CEOs, elected leaders and other high-profile figures on worldwide challenges. Barra is expected to make more public appearances this fall as the automaker works to improve its public image after its delayed recall of 2.6 million Cobalt, Ion and other cars linked to at least 13 deaths.
Barra will appear at a panel session hosted by Chelsea Clinton on “the long-term prosperity of businesses and societies around the world. ... Governments, civil society, and businesses need to redefine value to address not just the economic but the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.”
Other participants include Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, finance minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation has been a major player in the so-called “grand bargain,” an effort by the state, businesses and private foundations to help speed Detroit’s exit from Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
The event runs from Sept. 21-24. Other participants include Hillary Rodham Clinton; Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chair, president and CEO; Michelle Bachelet, president of the Republic of Chile; King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of Jordan: former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; Peter Agnefjäll, president and CEO of IKEA Group; Melinda Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company.
Before the recall crisis began in February, Barra was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union Address.
Since then, Barra has faced a rough year. GM has recalled nearly 29 million vehicles built in North America in 66 campaigns, both records for the automaker.
The automaker was fined $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in May — the largest-ever fine — and agreed to up to three years of special oversight by NHTSA. The Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and 45 state attorneys general are investigating, as are two congressional committees.
GM has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury and faces more than a hundred lawsuits. It took a $2.5 billion charge against earnings in the first half of the year to account for the rising recall costs.
Barra testified four times before Congress and fired 15 GM employees in the wake of a scathing internal report that blamed the delayed recall on “a pattern of incompetence and neglect.”
GM says it thinks a victims compensation fund will cost it between $400 million and $600 million. The fund has received 309 requests for compensation, including 107 deaths as of Monday. It will accept applications through Dec. 31.
Earlier this month, Barra visited Mexico and Brazil. In Brazil, she met with President Dilma Rousseff and said the company planned to invest nearly $3 billion in its operations there over five years.