Criminal Justice

Toyota to pay $1.2B in deferred prosecution agreement related to sudden-acceleration disclosures

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Updated and corrected: Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that Toyota will pay $1.2 billion in a deferred prosecution agreement related to its disclosures about sudden-acceleration problems.

Holder announced the agreement today, report USA Today and a press release. The criminal penalty is the largest of its kind imposed on an automaker in U.S. history.

“Today we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls,” Holder said.

According to prosecutors, Toyota made two misleading statements in the fall of 2009 when it claimed it addressed the “root cause” of unintended acceleration by recalling eight car models with floor mats that could trap the gas pedal.

Prosecutors allege Toyota knew at the time that other car models not subject to the recall had the same problem. Prosecutors also claim Toyota took steps to hide another cause of unintended acceleration: a “sticky pedal” problem in which pedals got stuck in a depressed position.

Prosecutors will defer prosecution on a mail-fraud charge for three years, and will seek to dismiss the charge if Toyota abides by terms of the agreement. As part of the deal, an independent monitor will review Toyota’s policies and procedures on safety-related public statements.

Several publications had advance stories on the deal, based on anonymous sources. They included CNN, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

A Toyota spokesman, Keisuke Kirimoto, said Toyota cooperated during the four-year investigation. “During that time, we have made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and more consumer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements,” he said.

Updated at 9 AM to report the deal was announced today and to include details from the news conference. Corrected at 9:40 a.m. to make clear payment was part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

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