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The agency claims 'deficient internal accounting controls' prevented the company from properly assessing the potential financial impact of the defective component.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has fined General Motors $1 million to settle charges of accounting failures.The agency claims "deficient internal accounting controls" prevented the company from properly assessing the potential financial impact of defective ignition switches.

"According to the SEC's order, when loss contingencies such as a potential vehicle recall arise, accounting guidance requires companies like General Motors to assess the likelihood of whether the potential recall will occur, and provide an estimate of the associated loss or range of loss or otherwise provide a statement that such an estimate cannot be made," the SEC said in a statement.

GM workers allegedly failed to notify company accountants of the ignition-switch issues until November 2013, more than a year after some personnel "understood ... there was a safety issue at hand."

As part of the settlement agreement, GM consented to an administrative cease-and-desist order without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.

"The SEC settlement does not call into question any of GM's current or prior financial statements or its disclosures," the company said in a statement. "Also, no material weakness or significant deficiency was found by the SEC."

The civil penalty represents just a small fraction of GM's record $9.7 billion profit in 2015.