According to those all-too-nebulous "people familiar with the matter," Toyota is close to a settlement with the US federal government to end a criminal probe over its long-running unintended acceleration fiasco. Though Toyota has never admitted guilt, the deal could reportedly crest a billion dollars and would likely include a criminal deferred prosecution agreement, and while we're not legal experts, The Wall Street Journal explains that such a deal would "[force Toyota] to accept responsibility while avoiding the potentially crippling consequences of federal criminal convictions."

The report from WSJ also suggests that Toyota is facing charges that it "made false or incomplete disclosures" to various government agencies regarding possible defects to its cars. Such charges may include mail and wire fraud violations. Toyota has already paid out fines totaling $66.2 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because it failed to report safety defects in a timely manner.

This deal with the federal government is not related to the billion-dollar class-action settlement reached with Toyota owners over falling vehicle values, and it's also different from the roughly 400 lawsuits still in courts alleging personal injury of wrongful death due to cases of unintended acceleration. In other words, don't expect to hear the end of such courtroom verdicts and settlements anytime soon...

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