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Toyota documents subpoenaed by U.S. House committee

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Toyota documents subpoenaed by U.S. House committee

February 18, 2010 - 4:42 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- A House panel today subpoenaed confidential company documents that a former Toyota lawyer has said prove the automaker routinely concealed evidence from the courts and federal regulators, a committee staffer said.

The subpoena was issued as part of an investigation by the House of Representatives Oversight Committee into Toyota Motor Corp.'s response to complaints of uncontrolled engine acceleration that led to a global recall of more than 8 million vehicles, Kurt Bardella, a committee staff spokesman, told Reuters.

Dimitrios Biller, who headed a corporate legal team that defended Toyota in rollover-accident lawsuits, took some 6,000 internal documents with him when he left Toyota in 2007, and has since sued the automaker under U.S. racketeering laws.

He has said the documents support his allegations that the company systematically hid or destroyed legal evidence that would have led to costly trials in the United States.

The committee's subpoena was accepted by Biller's lawyer on behalf of his client, "and obviously they intend to comply," Bardella said. The subpoena states that the documents must be turned over by 5 p.m. on Feb. 23, the day before the oversight panel is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Toyota recalls.

"The committee is conducting a comprehensive, fact-based investigation with the intent of collecting and analyzing as much relevant information as possible," committee chairman Edolphus Towns and the panel's top-ranking Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa, said in a joint statement following issuance of the subpoena.

"The only way we can ensure that the safety needs of American drivers are being met is to examine, in a bipartisan fashion, exactly who knew what and when, and if appropriate and immediate action was taken to mitigate any danger to the American public," the statement said.

The subpoena came hours after the committee issued a letter formally asking Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, to testify before the panel.

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