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Justice Department announces $1.2 billion settlement in Toyota criminal investigation

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The Justice Department today announced a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota (TM) that will end a criminal investigation into the company over misleading statements about safety issues in Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 and 2010. As part of the settlement, Toyota will admit to concealing safety issues related to unintended accelerations. The penalty is the largest ever imposed on an automaker. Attorney General Eric Holder said the company also made misleading statements to members of Congress.

The Toyota settlement comes as General Motors (GM) is under criminal investigation over its handling of a faulty ignition switch that is linked to at least 12 deaths. General Motors knew a decade ago about the ignition problems, but didn’t recall the affected vehicles until this year.

GM CEO Mary Barra, who took the top job in January, came out this week and said GM is cooperating with federal investigators and conducting its own internal investigation into the decade-long delay in issuing recalls of the faulty vehicles.

In the associated video, Yahoo Finance’s Jeff Macke says Mary Barra so far is handling the situation at GM much better than Toyota did, by coming out and taking responsibility for the problem. “It’s always the cover-up,” said Macke. “I don’t know if we have to exhume Richard Nixon to get him to speak to that point or what exactly has to happen in terms of leaders understanding that you should probably stop lying to the federal officials who show up at your office.”

GM so far has stopped short of saying it will compensate the families of those killed in crashes related to the faulty ignition switches. Barra said she would do what’s right for customers after the company completes its internal investigation. Macke credited Barra for saying the company made mistakes and intends to fix them. “That seems like a low bar; that seems like literally the least you could ask of a CEO,” said Macke. “It’s the right message."

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