DETROIT (WWJ/AP) — Takata Corp. has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal charge and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution for concealing a deadly defect in its air bag inflators.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit announced the plea deal on Friday.
“As you all know, exploding air bags have led to at least 16 deaths and 100 injuries,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.
Takata will pay a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million to individuals who were injured by the air bags and $850 million to automakers that purchased the inflators. The U.S. district court in Detroit has appointed attorney Kenneth Feinberg to distribute restitution payments.
McQuade said that officials at Takata knew from at least the year 2000 that the inflators were not performing as they were supposed to.
“Takata has admitted to a scheme to defraud its customers by manipulating test data regarding the performance of its airbag inflators,” McQuade said. “The customers are the carmakers who bought those air bags and installed them in their vehicles.”
Payments to individuals must be made soon. Money due to automakers must be paid within five days of Takata’s anticipated sale or merger. Takata is expected to be sold to another auto supplier or investor sometime this year.
In addition, three former Takata employees were indicted on six counts of conspiracy and wire fraud.
Click here to see the indictment (.pdf format)
The charges were filed against Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi. All three were long-time executives at Takata until 2015, and all three worked both in Japan and the U.S. Takata’s U.S. operations are headquartered in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, Michigan.
The trio deceived car makers who purchased the inflators “through false and fraudulent reports and other information that concealed the true condition of the inflators,” according to the indictment. It alleges that the men knew back in 2000 that the inflators were not performing to specifications and had ruptured during testing.
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