Japanese automotive supplier Takata Corp. is reportedly nearing a $1 billion settlement with the U.S. government that, if approved, would resolve allegations of criminal wrongdoing in its handling of airbags that are prone to explode with deadly force, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Citing anonymous sources familiar with the discussion, the Wall Street Journal says that a settlement could come as early as January and range in the high hundreds of millions of dollars to $1 billion. There is also talk of Takata pleading guilty to criminal misconduct as part of the settlement, WSJ’s sources said.
The settlement stems from Takata’s handling of inquiries into its defective airbags and information the company provided to Honda and other customers that installed the devices in their vehicles.
According to WSJ, “Prosecutors are weighing charging Takata with wire fraud after determining the company likely made misleading statements and concealed information about air bags that can explode …”
Exploding Takata airbags can blast metal fragments at the vehicle’s occupants, sometimes with deadly consequences. So far the defect has been blamed for at least 16 deaths worldwide, including 11 in the U.S., and 184 injuries.
The Justice Department’s criminal probe also focuses on misleading test reports Takata provided to Honda, its biggest customer, that concealed findings about its airbag failures. A WSJ review of the Takata documents found that Takata’s U.S. employees routinely expressed concerns internally that their Japanese counterparts were altering airbag safety reports, but that those concerns went ignored for a decade.
Those reports mirror earlier findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that Takata produced testing reports with “selective, incomplete or inaccurate data” and failed to “clarify inaccurate information” that it presented to federal regulators in 2012.
Source: Wall Street Journal