Toyota May Settle Criminal Investigation for $1 Billion

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Since 2009, Toyota (NYSE:TM) has faced class-action lawsuits, personal injury claims, and further legal scrutiny related to acceleration issues in its automobiles. While making its case to federal agencies, the automaker was even charged by federal attorneys of submitting documents that misled government regulators. According to The Wall Street Journal, that criminal investigation may end with Toyota paying over $1 billion in fines and agreeing to probation.

Though the exact amount could not be confirmed by sources and may change, a person with knowledge of the investigation told WSJ the settlement would top the billion-dollar mark while ending the possibility of further prosecution as long as Toyota agreed to comply with guidelines set by U.S. attorneys.

Such a high-priced settlement would put Toyota’s cost of litigation over unintended accelerarion in the billions without a definitive showing that the automaker’s vehicles were defective. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulators conducted a multi-year investigation into Toyota vehicles to determine whether actual components were responsible for the crashes that have killed scores of people and forced the automaker to recall nearly 14 million cars and trucks across the globe.

A class-action civil suit brought by Toyota owners claiming devalued investments ended with a settlement of at least $1.1 billion in 2012, which was a record amount of damages for an automaker. Hundreds of personal injury claims against Toyota over unintended acceleration are pending, but the overwhelming majority that have gone to trial went in the automaker’s favor. One case in which the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff last October in Oklahoma forced Toyota to consider settling the remaining  cases on the docket.

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