NEW YORK, New York - A General Motors vice-president in charge of product development was aware of an ignition switch defect that prevented air bags from inflating a decade before the affected vehicles were recalled, documents showed.In an email dated June 27 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt engineering chief Ray DeGiorgio suggested he had discussed the problem with Doug Parks, then chief engineer on the Cobalt but now vice-president of global product development.The Cobalt was among 2.6-million vehicles recalled in February 2014 equipped with the defective part.GM LEADERSHIP EXONERATEDIn an email titled "UPDATE: GMX001 Ignition Cylinder Changes - Unintentional Turning Off Engine", DeGiorgio told another GM employee: "Here is an update of our review w/Doug at Milford." The email was released by the Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives.An internal GM investigation exonerated its leadership in early June 2014 after concluding that management was only made aware of the problem in December 2013.American firms often name a dozen employees as "vice-president" but they are not necessarily part of the group's top leaders. At GM, spokespeople hold the title without being tasked with the automaker’s executive decision-making.GM has fired 15 employees over the recall, mostly engineers and company lawyers, and launched disciplinary procedures against five more. Investigations by the US Congress, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are still under way.COMPENSATION FUNDGM lawyer Ken Feinberg is to announce on June 30 2014 a compensation fund for victims, a spokesman told AFP. The case is then due to go before the courts, where a dozen complaints havebeen filed against the automaker.In February 2014, 10 years after the ignition switch defect was detected, GM recalled a total of 2.6-million vehicles: Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and Sky, Pontiac 5 and Solstice models assembled from 2003 to 2011.The glitch has been linked to 54 crashes and at least 13 deaths, according to GM.