NEW YORK (AP) — Toyota said Monday it received a subpoena from a U.S. federal grand jury seeking documents related to unintended acceleration in its vehicles and the braking system of its Prius hybrid, indicating a criminal investigation of its safety problems has begun.
The Japanese automaker also said it and its U.S. sales affiliate received the subpoena and a document request from the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is seeking documents related to unintended acceleration and Toyota's disclosure policies and practices, Toyota said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment, saying it does not confirm or deny its investigations as a matter of policy. But the subpoena means a criminal investigation is under way, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer.
Henning said the government could be looking into product safety law violations or whether Toyota made false statements to a federal safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, involving unintended acceleration or the Prius braking system, Henning said.
"In their prior submissions, if there were false statements made in there, that could be the basis" for the investigation, Henning said.
In addition, the SEC likely is looking into whether Toyota disclosed all of its problems in required regulatory filings, Henning said. Both agencies could be working together as well, he said.
The subpoenas are the latest demand for documentation from Toyota Motor Corp. Over the weekend, Toyota turned over documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with some indicating it saved money by obtaining a limited recall from regulators in 2007.
Two House committees are holding hearings this week on the Japanese automaker's recall of 8.5 million vehicles since last fall to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.
Toyota said it received the grand jury request from the Southern District of New York on Feb. 8. It received the requests from the SEC on Friday. It disclosed both requests in a filing with the SEC on Monday and said it intends to comply with the requests.
Krisher reported from Detroit