WASHINGTON, D.C.: The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has fined Toyota US$1.2 billion in a criminal investigation of the company following widespread incidents of unintended vehicle acceleration in 2009 and 2010.
The DoJ concluded Toyota made misleading public statements to consumers and gave inaccurate facts to members of Congress "as part of efforts to defend its brand."
According to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder (below): "In other words, Toyota confronted a public safety emergency as if it were a simple public relations problem. And they mounted this cover up despite widely-documented incidents, and even tragic accidents."
In addition to the fine, the largest in U.S. automotive history, Toyota will submit to "rigorous review" by an independent monitor to assess the manner in which it reports safety issues to the public and its regulator.
Holder added: "Put simply, Toyota's conduct was shameful. It showed a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers. By the company's own admission, it protected its brand ahead of its own customers. This constitutes a clear and reprehensible abuse of the public trust."
The DoJ said Toyota will also be charged with wire fraud but prosecution will be deferred for three years if the company continues to fully cooperate with federal authorities.
In a related move another Japanese company, Marubeni Corporation, has been fined US$88 million by the DoJ after pleading guilty to bribing Indonesian government officials to secure a power project.
DoJ acting assistant attorney general Mythili Raman said: "Marubeni pleaded guilty to engaging in a seven-year scheme to pay – and conceal – bribes to a high-ranking member of Parliament and other foreign officials in Indonesia. The company refused to play by the rules, and then refused to cooperate with the government's investigation. Now Marubeni faces the consequences for its crooked business practices in Indonesia."
According to the eight-count court filing, Marubeni, together with a company in Connecticut, paid bribes to officials in Indonesia – including a high-ranking member of the Indonesian Parliament and high-ranking members of Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Indonesia – in exchange for assistance in securing a $118 million contract.
The DoJ said the fine reflects Marubeni's decision not to cooperate with the investigation when given the opportunity to do so, its lack of an effective compliance and ethics programme and its failure to do anything about its behaviour.
In prosecuting the case, the DoJ said it had "significant cooperation" from Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission, the Swiss attorney general's office and the UK's Serious Fraud Office.