Takata agrees to guilty plea, will pay $1B

Takata Justice Department

DETROIT — Takata Corp. has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal charge and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution for a years-long scheme to conceal a deadly defect in its automotive air bag inflators.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit announced the deal Friday, hours after it unsealed a six-count grand jury indictment against three former Takata executives who are accused of carrying out the scheme by falsifying and altering test reports that showed the inflators could rupture.

Takata inflators can explode with too much force, spewing shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 11 people have been killed in the U.S. and 16 worldwide because of the defect. More than 180 have been injured. The problem touched off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history covering 42 million vehicles and 69 million inflators. It will take years for the recalls to be completed.

“The risk that they allowed to happen is really reprehensible,” said Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, whose office worked on the two-year investigation. Under the deal, Takata will pay a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million to individuals injured by the air bags and $850 million to automakers that purchased the inflators.

A federal judge will be asked to appoint attorney Kenneth Feinberg to distribute restitution payments. He handled restitution in the General Motors ignition switch and BP oil spill cases, among others.