Toyota Subpoenaed by Grand Jury, SEC
Toyota Motor Corp. said today that it has been subpoenaed to produce documents related to the sudden acceleration of its vehicles and braking problems with the Prius hybrid.
The subpoenas were issued by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York on February 8, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The securities fraud unit of the U.S. Attorney’s office is handling the investigation, reports the Wall Street Journal.
That unit can bring criminal charges if a public company has committed fraud, improperly disclosed, or made misleading statements to investors.
On February 19, Toyota received a voluntary request and subpoena from the Los Angeles office of the SEC for documents about the sudden acceleration problem, as well as company policy on disclosure and practices.
And the Department of Transportation may seek civil penalties against Toyota for failing to comply with the rules concerning recalls.
The Detroit News reports that it is a 15-year felony to lie to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by misleading the secretary “with respect to motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment safety related defects that have caused death or serious bodily injury to an individual” under the TREAD Act, approved by Congress in 2000.
Tuesday, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will begin hearings into the company’s recall of more than six million vehicles. President Akio Toyoda will be there, represented by Theodore Hester, an attorney with King & Spaulding.
The committee will deliver a live Webcast of the proceedings that begin at 11 a.m.
The committee received documents Sunday that show following a 2007 sudden acceleration recall, the company cheered its success in lobbying the government to limit the recall to just 55,000 vehicles, reports the WSJ.
That saved Toyota about $100 million, company documents show. Toyota also considered a “win” a company move that closed a NHTSA investigation into the Tacoma truck.
The subpoenas indicate that the automaker's troubles could extend beyond a number of class-action lawsuits have been filed from people injured in or killed in sudden acceleration runaway Toyotas.
Toyota said in a statement Sunday: "Our first priority is the safety of our customers and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong." The company says it is overhauling its corporate culture to improve communications between the Japanese headquarters and U.S. operations, reports the WSJ.
Since September, more than 6.5 million Toyotas sold in the U.S. have been recalled for sudden acceleration, along with 437,000 Prius hybrids worldwide for braking, and the Corolla compact for steering issues.
NHTSA reports it’s received information on 34 deaths linked to the accelerating Toyotas and more than 2,000 complaints of sudden acceleration.
On Lighter Side
On a much lighter side, the Detroit News reports on a duo from Michigan who run Tabloidtshirts.com who make coffee mugs, and bumper stickers, have come out with a new T-shirt. “Toyota,” the shirt says, “Brakes/Steering Sold Separately.”
The company owners admit they are uncertain how the public will react. #