The Department of Justice appointed David Kelley, a former U.S. attorney, to serve as the independent safety monitor at U.S. operations of Toyota Motor Corp.
Kelley’s position is part of the automaker’s agreement reached with federal prosecutors in March that also included a $1.2 billion fine. The deal settled a four-year federal criminal investigation into whether Toyota properly reported safety complaints about sudden acceleration of its vehicles.
Toyota was formally charged with one count of wire fraud, but if it abides by the settlement terms, the Justice Department will defer prosecution for three years and then seek to dismiss the charge. The case focused on reports of floor mats jamming gas pedals and of gas pedals getting stuck on their own.
“We intend to have a cooperative and constructive working relationship with Mr. Kelley, with the goal of making Toyota an even stronger company,” said Julie Hamp, Toyota’s senior spokeswoman in North America. “In our view, this is an opportunity to build on the important changes we have made over the past four years to serve our customers better.”
Kelley said he has already started to meet with Toyota. “It is a long road ahead,” he said. “If you look at the deferred prosecution agreement there is a lot of ground to cover.”
The agreement gives Kelley broad powers to hire staff and to review Toyota’s policies, practices and procedures for communicating safety issues both internally and to the public and regulators. Under terms of the agreement, Toyota must pay Kelley and his staff standard consulting rates.