When the federal judge in New York took Toyota’s guilty plea on criminal charges, he made some most interesting comments relating to the automaker’s conduct. What U.S. District Judge William T. Pauley had to say had to make some individuals at Toyota pretty uncomfortable. The following was taken from Toyota’s appearance before Judge Pauley in a New York Federal Court on March 20:
THE COURT: And do you understand that under the terms of this deferred prosecution agreement, that Toyota admits that it has misled U.S. consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about the safety related issues in vehicles, each of which caused a type of unintended acceleration?
MR. REYNOLDS: Yes, I do so understand.
THE COURT: All right. I must say that having reviewed the parties’ submissions, the statement of facts to which Toyota has agreed are true and accurate, really present a reprehensible picture of corporate misconduct. This, unfortunately, is a case that demonstrates that corporate fraud can kill, and corporations only act through their agents. So certainly from the Court’s perspective, I sincerely hope that this is not the end but, rather, a beginning to seek to hold those individuals who are responsible for making these decisions accountable, but that will have to abide that event at some later date.
Having been involved personally in the ongoing Toyota litigation, I was glad to see Judge Pauley recognize how truly bad the decision-makers at Toyota had been. It reminded me of an internal email we obtained in discovery where a subordinate involved in the cover-up of a known defect told a top official “if we don’t stop lying we are going to jail.” It appears Judge Pauley recognizes that top officials in the company were responsible for Toyota’s criminal conduct.
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