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House panel calls Toyota whistleblower documents 'troubling'

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House panel calls Toyota whistleblower documents 'troubling'

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- A House panel says documents obtained from a former Toyota Motor Corp. "whistleblower" lawyer are troubling, and it wants the Japanese automaker to respond.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Ed Towns , D-N.Y., said documents obtained under subpoena from former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller "indicate Toyota deliberately withheld records that it was legally required to produce in response to discovery orders in litigation."

"Many of these documents concern 'rollover' cases in which a driver or passenger was injured, including cases where victims were paralyzed," Towns said.

A Texas court had blocked Biller from releasing the documents, but the subpoena from Congress superseded that ruling.

Toyota has rejected the claims of Biller, who was managing counsel in the product liability group of Toyota Motor Sales USA from April 2003 to September 2007.

Biller has accused Toyota of trying to hide "evidence of safety defects from consumers and regulators, and fostered a culture of 'hypocrisy and deceit,' " Towns said.

The records include a memo, authored by Biller to his superiors at Toyota, noting that Toyota failed to produce e-mails or other electronic records in response to discovery orders. Additionally, the committee has found multiple references to secret "Books of Knowledge" that were kept in electronic form, in which Toyota engineers kept their design and testing data across all vehicle lines and parts.

The internal memorandum dated Sept. 1, 2005, is titled "A Serious Need to Get Documents/E-Discovery From TMC."

The committee said it has evidence that Toyota entered into multimillion dollar settlements in civil cases when they feared that the plaintiff's lawyer was getting close to discovering the existence of the "Books of Knowledge."

Towns wrote Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota's North American chief, on Friday asking him to respond to the Biller documents and the serious issues they raise.

"In sum, the Biller documents indicate a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation. People injured in crashes involving Toyota vehicles may have been injured a second time when Toyota failed to produce relevant evidence in court," Towns wrote.

"Moreover, this also raises very serious questions as to whether Toyota has also withheld substantial, relevant information from NHTSA."

Towns wants Inaba to respond by March 12.

Toyota didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100226/AUTO01/2260441/1148/auto01/House-panel-calls-Toyota-whistleblower-documents--troubling-#ixzz0gg6s92kr

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Congressman accuses Toyota of withholding documents

Neil Roland

Automotive News -- February 26, 2010 - 3:27 pm ET

WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor Corp. “deliberately withheld relevant electronic records” that it was legally required to produce in lawsuits over SUV rollover accidents, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said today.

Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y, said a review of documents subpoenaed from former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller also shows Toyota may have “withheld substantial, relevant information” from federal regulators. Toyota denied acting inappropriately.

The documents show Toyota kept secret, so-called books of knowledge that contained design and testing data across all vehicle lines and parts, said Towns, whose panel held one of the two House hearings this week on unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota avoided revealing the existence of the “books of knowledge'' by entering multi-million-dollar settlements in cases in which they feared that the plaintiffs were closing in on discovery of the electronic records, the lawmaker said.

Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight said it is not uncommom "for companies to object to certain demands for documents made in litigation. Consistent with that philosophy, we take appropriate steps to maintain the confidentiality of competitive business information and trade secrets.

"We are confident that we have acted appropriately with respect to product liability litigation and our discovery practices and look forward to addressing Chairman Towns' concerns."

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Priceless. Just priceless. The hits will not stop coming.

I want to hear Ralph Nader chime in on Toyota's issues, just for nostalgia's sake. Maybe it's time for ol' Ralphy to brush off the old Olivetti and write a new book.

This also shows that Toyota has been deceptive at all of the Congressional hearings. Especially not good for them.

Edited by whiteknight
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