Takata pleads guilty, will pay $1 billion for airbag scheme
Those penalties are stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators. An indictment was also unsealed charging three Takata executives with wire fraud and conspiracy in relation to the same conduct.
“Automotive suppliers who sell products that are supposed to protect consumers from injury or death must put safety ahead of profits,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan.
“If they choose instead to engage in fraud, we will hold accountable the individuals and business entities who are responsible.”
“For more than a decade, Takata repeatedly and systematically falsified critical test data related to the safety of its products, putting profits and production schedules ahead of safety,” said Fraud Section Chief Weissmann.
“This announcement is the latest in the automotive industry enforcement actions the Fraud Section has taken to protect U.S. consumers against fraud.”
According to the company’s admissions, in the late 1990s, Takata began developing airbag inflators that relied upon ammonium nitrate as their primary propellant.
From at least in or around 2000, Takata knew that certain ammonium nitrate-based inflators were not performing to the specifications required by the auto manufacturers.
Takata also knew that certain inflators had sustained failures, including ruptures, during testing. Nevertheless, Takata induced its customers to purchase these airbag systems by submitting false and fraudulent reports and other information that concealed the true condition of the inflators.
This fraudulent data made the performance of the company’s airbag inflators appear better than it actually was, including by omitting that, in some instances, inflators ruptured during testing. Takata employees – including a number of key executives – routinely discussed the falsification of test reports being provided to Takata’s customers in email and in verbal communications.
Even after the inflators began to experience repeated problems in the field – including ruptures causing injuries and deaths – Takata executives continued to withhold the true and accurate inflator test information and data from their customers. ■