Washington — Bob Ferguson, General Motors top lobbyist who helped guide the Detroit automaker through the ignition switch crisis, is stepping down and two senior executives will split his responsibilities.
Ferguson, senior vice president, GM Global Public Policy and chairman, GM Foundation, will leave GM effective Sunday “to pursue external opportunities, including establishing his own consulting agency. Ferguson joined GM in public policy in 2010 and later served as senior vice president overseeing Cadillac before returning to the public policy team in 2014.
Craig Glidden, who was named GM executive vice president and general counsel in February, will assume responsibility for Global Public Policy and Corporate Sustainability, in addition to his role leading GM’s legal staff.
Barra also announced that Tony Cervone, GM senior vice president of global communications, will assume responsibility for the GM Foundation and corporate giving activities in addition to his communications responsibilities. Both assignments are effective immediately.
“On behalf of the leadership team, I thank Bob for his significant contributions to GM,” said Barra. “Bob has been committed to strengthening GM’s relationships with governments around the world, has provided strong leadership and counsel on a variety of public policy issues and has built a world-class team to lead our efforts going forward.”
Ferguson, a former telecommunications executive who joined GM in 2010 in public policy, moved to his job at Cadillac after being promoted to vice president for global public policy. In that job in public policy, he helped steer the automaker through difficult issues, including a January 2012 congressional hearing over battery fires in crash-tested Chevrolet Volts and lengthy talks over fuel economy standards with the Obama administration.
Last year, GM CEO Mary Barra brought Ferugson back from Cadillac to help with DC operations.
“Over the past six years, I’ve gained great appreciation for the dedicated, hardworking people of General Motors. I’m confident the company is entering a new era of growth and success,” Ferguson.
Ferguson was at Barra's side for her appearances on Capitol Hill and when she met with the relatives of those killed in crashes connected to its recall of 2.6 million older Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and other cars for defective ignition switches linked to 124 deaths and 275 crashes. He helped negotiate GM’s $35 million settlement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in May 2014.
Last year, GM came under harsh scrutiny from members of Congress and the automaker has redoubled its efforts to rebuild relationships on Capitol Hill. GM has hired a number of public policy executives over the last year.
Asked about the reaction of GM on Capitol Hill during four congressional hearings between April and July, Barra told The Detroit News in October 2014 the episode showed GM needed to do more to improve its relationships with regulators, members of Congress and other government officials worldwide. “One of the lessons General Motors has maybe had to learn more than once is relationships matter,” Barra said.
Ferguson leaves weeks after GM resolved the Justice Department’s 18-month investigation into its delayed ignition switch recall. GM paid a $900 million fine and was charged with two felonies.
Under a deferred prosecution agreement, GM will face monitoring by a former federal prosecutor in New York, Bart Schwartz, for at least three years. Schwartz will review GM’s practices and make proposals for reform. GM must adopt his recommendations or must get approval from the Justice Department to skip them.