The government has announced a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota that Attorney General Eric Holder says is the largest financial penalty of its kind ever imposed on an auto company.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) speaks as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara (L) listens during an announcement at the Justice Department (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It also filed a criminal charge alleging the automaker defrauded consumers by issuing misleading statements about safety issues in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, an independent monitor will review policies, practices and procedures at the company.

The action concludes a four-year criminal investigation into the Japanese automaker's disclosure of safety problems, which focused on whether Toyota was forthright in reporting problems related to unintended acceleration.

Toyota has blamed drivers, stuck accelerators or floor mats that trapped the gas pedal for the acceleration claims that led to massive recalls of Camrys and other vehicles. The company has repeatedly denied its vehicles are flawed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted as a possible cause.

Toyota says it has made fundamental changes to become "a more responsive and customer-focused organization."


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