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Toyota case shows it's hard to prosecute execs

Wednesday, March 26, 2014    

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WASHINGTON, USA

The Justice Department socked Toyota with a US$1.2 billion penalty last week for concealing dangerous defects in some cars. Yet it's unlikely anyone will go to jail.

Prosecutors say they had little choice but to accept that outcome because of constraints with evidence and the challenge of gathering testimony and information from witnesses abroad.

The same internal memos and public statements that buttressed the case against Toyota might well have been inadmissible as evidence against individuals. And it can be hard to prove that the person whose name is on a damning document was directly responsible for it.

The government says the penalty is the largest against an auto company. Still, some consumer advocates fear a monetary penalty doesn't do enough to dissuade executives at other companies from law-breaking.

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