"Put simply, Toyota's conduct was shameful," Attorney General Eric Holder said during his Wednesday announcement that the Department of Justice had reached a settlement in a criminal probe over the car company's conduct. The four-year investigation, a joint effort with the FBI, concerned Toyota's handling of a deadly vehicle defect that caused some cars to suddenly accelerate. As part of the 1.2 billion settlement, Toyota also admitted to wrongdoing.
The settlement concludes the federal investigation into the Toyota defect, which prompted one of the largest car recalls in history. At issue was whether the company provided false statements to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the deadly defect, and how the company handled complaints. "Today, we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls," Holder said on Wednesday. He added that the company "gave inaccurate facts to Members of Congress" over the controversy.
Separately, the company has paid at least $1.6 billion to owners of the defective car as a result of lawsuits. Today's settlement comes with an independent monitor who will keep an eye on the company's safety practices going forward. As an incentive to make sure Toyota complies with the terms of the settlement, the Wall Street Journal notes, the pact has a "deferred prosecution agreement." If the company doesn't comply with the settlement terms for the next three years, it could end up with a criminal charge of wire fraud.
One company in particular is no doubt watching today's announcement — and the fall-out — closely: General Motors faces a similar federal case pertaining to a glitch that caused some vehicles to suddenly shut down. Although Holder did not address the G.M. case specifically in his remarks Wednesday, his comments did include a warning that "Other car companies should not repeat Toyota’s mistake."