Report: Takata to plead guilty in defective airbag probe

Report: Takata to plead guilty in defective airbag probe
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Takata Corp. is expected to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and pay $1 billion over its handling of defective airbags, the The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The auto parts supplier has been under federal investigation since its rupture-prone airbags were linked to numerous deaths and injuries around the globe, leading to the largest auto recall in history.

Takata is expected to plead guilty to criminal wire fraud for allegedly falsifying data in air-bag testing reports that were given to automakers, according to the Journal. The plea agreement could be announced as early as Friday.

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Under the reported settlement, Takata will pay $25 million towards a criminal penalty; $850 million for restitution to automakers that bought defective Takata airbags; and $125 million towards a compensation fund for victims and their families. 

Takata uses ammonium nitrate to fill its air bags in a crash, but the chemical can deteriorate and burn too fast when exposed to heat and humidity for long periods. Those air bags then become volatile and can explode with too much force, spraying shrapnel into the vehicle.

Federal safety regulators confirmed the 11th U.S. death linked to ruptured Takata airbags last fall.

Takata has also agreed to hire an independent monitor to audit the company’s practices, though the negotiations are still ongoing and the terms could change, the Journal report noted.