[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday announced [press release] a $1.2 billion settlement agreement [text, PDF] with Toyota [corporate website] for misleading customers and US regulators. The criminal complaint [text, PDF] against Toyota alleges that the company intentionally concealed information from the public regarding a design defect whereby drivers attempting to break actually accelerated their vehicles. The settlement will allow Toyota to avoid criminal prosecution after three years and marks the largest penalty of its kind [WSJ report] ever imposed on a car company. US Attorney General Eric [official website] holder held a press conference on the settlement where he called Toyota's conduct "shameful" and accused the company of confronting "a public safety emergency as if it were simply a public relations problem."
Wednesday's settlement is the latest development in the litigation surrounding Toyota's handling of the 2010 recall. In November 2012 Toyota settled [JURIST report] a class action lawsuit for 35.5 million dollars brought by its shareholders failing to disclose vehicle quality issues. In 2010, Toyota agreed [JURIST report] to pay 32.4 million in fines in following investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website]. JURIST Guest Columnist Bruce Aronson argues [JURIST op-ed] that the recent corporate scandals in Japan, including the Toyota recalls, highlight the need for reform of that country's corporate governance structure.