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Constantine Cannon Client Gwang-Ho Kim Honored as 2021 Whistleblower of the Year by Taxpayers Against Fraud

Posted  October 14, 2021

We are pleased to announce that Constantine Cannon client Gwang-Ho Kim has been selected as the Whistleblower of the Year for 2021 by the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund (TAFEF).  TAFEF is a prominent public interest organization that works to protect whistleblowers and strengthen the effective operation of the laws that empower them to expose misconduct and the theft of taxpayer dollars.

A safety engineer at Hyundai in South Korea, Mr. Kim came forward to protect American motorists from safety risks that defective engines in millions of cars Hyundai and Kia vehicles posed.  Mr. Kim knew that Hyundai, the second-largest corporation in South Korea, would punish him for telling the truth.  But he also was confident the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the vehicle-safety regulator in the United States, would work doggedly and protect the public.

In 2016, Mr. Kim purchased a plane ticket, and accompanied by his college-age daughter, Mr. Kim traveled to Washington, D.C. to alert NHTSA that Hyundai and Kia knew their engines were defective.  He also delivered to NHTSA internal corporate records that would help prove the automakers were lying to conceal the looming danger.

In 2020, after an extensive investigation—critically aided by Mr. Kim’s close cooperation with regulators—NHTSA imposed the largest penalties in the agency’s history, totaling $210 million.  Apart from monetary penalties, NHTSA also required Hyundai and Kia to make extensive safety enhancements.  His courageous actions also stopped the automakers from shifting onto their customer’s billions of dollars in repair costs.  The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Kim’s extraordinary story in April 2021.

When Mr. Kim came forward as a whistleblower, he trusted that NHTSA would protect the motoring public and eventually reward him for his sacrifices under the whistleblower-reward program created by the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act.  Mr. Kim helped NHTSA accomplish the first task—protecting the public and penalizing the automakers. But the latter task—rewarding Mr. Kim’s contributions and sacrifices, and motivating other would-be whistleblowers to come forward—remains unfinished.

Mr. Kim has counted every single day that has passed since he decided to challenge Hyundai’s scheme.  The tally now exceeds 1,700 days. But Mr. Kim remains confident that NHTSA soon will finish the job he started, as Congress intended and DOT’s new leadership has pledged.

For his extraordinary courage and the personal sacrifices he made on behalf of motorists everywhere, Constantine Cannon is honored that its client Gwang-Ho Kim is TAFEF’s Whistleblower of the Year for 2021.

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