WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota Motor Corp., concluding a four-year criminal investigation into the Japanese automaker's disclosure of safety problems, according to a person close to the investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, were announcing the settlement Wednesday morning, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the settlement on the record before the announcement.
Toyota declined comment Wednesday on a Wall Street Journal report of the settlement.
The four-year criminal investigation focused on whether Toyota was forthright in reporting problems related to unintended acceleration troubles.
Starting in 2009, Toyota issued massive recalls, mostly in the U.S., totaling more than 10 million vehicles for various problems including faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats. From 2010 through 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. paid fines totaling more than $66 million for delays in reporting unintended acceleration problems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted as a possible cause.
Although the settlement is a big number, it's only a fraction of what the acceleration problems have cost Toyota -- and a fraction of the prosperous company's earnings.
The settlement continues a string of bad publicity for Toyota, which before the unintended acceleration cases had a bulletproof image of reliability. Since the cases surfaced, the company's brand image has been damaged and it has lost U.S. market share as competition has intensified.
Last year, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming that owners of its cars suffered economic losses because of the recalls. But that settlement did not include wrongful death and injury lawsuits that have been consolidated in California state and federal courts.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from Detroit.