Reuters and The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Toyota Motor Corp. and the United States Department of Justice are close to a deal that would resolve a criminal investigation into how it disclosed to government regulators customers’ complaints about unintended acceleration. The Journal is reporting that the settlement would involve Toyota paying as much as $1 billion in fines, ending a four year investigation. Sources say that the deal could still fall apart, or the amount of money involved could change.
A Toyota spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “Toyota continues to cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office in this matter. And in the nearly four years since this inquiry began, we’ve made fundamental changes to become more responsive and customer focused, and we’re committed to continue to improve.”
The investigation, launched by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, is looking into whether Toyota made false or incomplete disclosures to U.S. regulators about possible car defects. Prosecutors are also looking into possible mail fraud and wire fraud in connection to those disclosures.
The criminal case only adds to what has been a deeply embarrassing incident for Toyota, which formerly had a sterling reputation for reliability with consumers. The company recently settled an economic loss class action suit brought by customers who claimed their cars’ residual values had been harmed by the massive recall Toyota initiated in 2009 in response to the unintended acceleration issue. Toyota still faces hundreds of lawsuits over the matter, including wrongful death suits.