Toyota Motor Corp. was accused by shareholders, led by the $33.7 billion Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, of failing to disclose acceleration-related defects that it knew about, according to a consolidated complaint in a class-action lawsuit.
The shareholders said in the Oct. 4 filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that internal documents show Toyota deliberately concealed unintended sudden acceleration problems in the U.S. They said the company knew about the defects as early as 2000 and “stonewalled” regulators to avoid recalls.
The class-action lawsuit accuses Toyota of violating securities law by concealing the defects.
“As government regulators and the media began to focus on this serious safety problem in the Toyota vehicles, defendants initially denied that any unintended acceleration problem existed, despite a plethora of internal evidence to the contrary, and instead blamed driver error and media-induced publicity,” the investors said in the filing.
Toyota’s recalls related to the defects have erased $30 billion in market capitalization, the investors said. The Baltimore-based plan seeks to represent investors who bought Toyota’s American depository receipts from May 10, 2005, to Feb. 2, 2010.
U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer, who is overseeing the case, said in July that a U.S. Supreme Court decision may exclude securities-law claims by investors in Toyota’s common stock.
Gerald Silk, a lawyer for the Maryland fund, said in August that the decision as to which claims will be allowed to proceed will be made through a motion to seek class certification or a motion to dismiss the complaint.
“Toyota believes that the claims contained in the recently filed shareholder securities consolidated complaint are unfounded,” Celeste Migliore, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales USA in Torrance, Calif., said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.