Grand jury indicts 3 former Takata execs in air bag deaths

A federal grand jury indicted three former executives at Takata Corp for criminal wrongdoing in the Japanese auto parts maker's handling of air bag inflator ruptures linked to at least 16 deaths around the world.

Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi, longtime Takata executives who left the company in 2015, were indicted on wire fraud and conspiracy charges for allegedly persuading automakers to buy "faulty, inferior, non-performing, non-compliant or dangerous inflators" through false reports.

The indictment, unsealed Friday, says Takata executives knew in 2000 that the inflators were not performing to automakers specifications and were failing during testing.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade in Detroit will hold a press conference to announce a settlement in the case at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT), her office said in a statement.

Reuters reported Thursday that Takata was expected to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing as part of a $1 billion deal with the U.S. Justice Department.

The settlement includes a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million in victim compensation and $850 million to compensate automakers who have suffered losses from massive recalls, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said it is not clear where the defendants are or if they have lawyers. They do not currently have a court date.

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Takata executives indicted over defective airbag charges

A federal grand jury on Friday indicted three former Takata Corp. executives for allegedly deceiving automakers about the company's defective air bags, according to multiple reports.

Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi are facing charges of wire fraud for allegedly falsifying data to hide defects about its airbags in testing reports given to automakers.

“Companies have a responsibility to ensure the products they make are safe for consumers,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“These indictments send a strong message that if company executives knowingly put deadly products on the market, they will held accountable for their actions.”

Takata has been under federal investigation since its rupture-prone airbags were linked to numerous deaths and injuries around the globe, leading to the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

The Japanese auto parts supplier is soon expected to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and pay $1 billion as part of a plea agreement to settle the federal probe, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Takata uses ammonium nitrate to fill its air bags in a crash, but the chemical can deteriorate and burn too fast when exposed to heat and humidity for long periods. Those air bags then become volatile and can explode with too much force, spraying shrapnel into the vehicle.

The news comes just two days after the Justice Department announced that it is bringing criminal charges against six high-level Volkswagen employees for their alleged roles in the company's diesel emissions cheating scandal.

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