WASHINGTON (NBC News) – Takata, maker of millions of airbags at the root of the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, has plead guilty to one federal charge of wire fraud and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution.
“Takata has admitted to a scheme to defraud its customers by manipulating data regarding the performance of its airbag inflators,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said when announcing the settlement Friday.
The Justice Department says that as far back as the year 2000 the company knew that its inflators weren’t performing as expected.
Three former high level Takata executives have been indicted on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud.
“These three executives routinely discussed in emails the need to falsify reports to its customers,” McQuade said.
Those customers were the 19 automakers with dozens of models under recall to replace the dangerous airbags. Estimates say roughly one in six vehicles on the road could have potentially defective Takata airbags with inflaters that can explode, sending shrapnel flying into the front seat.
Investigators have reported at least 16 deaths and more than 180 injuries in the United States alone.
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