(Adds details of order, background)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, April 6 A federal judge in Detroit
said on Thursday he plans to name former FBI director Robert
Mueller to oversee nearly $1 billion in Takata Corp
restitution funds as part of a U.S. Justice Department
In January, Takata agreed to plead guilty to criminal
wrongdoing and to pay $1 billion to resolve a federal
investigation into its air bag inflators linked to at least 16
As part of the settlement, Takata agreed to establish two
independently administered restitution funds: one for $850
million to compensate automakers for recalls, and a $125 million
fund for individuals physically injured by Takata's airbags who
have not already reached a settlement.
U.S. District Court Judge George Steeh in February accepted
Takata's guilty plea and approved the previously agreed
With the criminal settlement and penalties set in the United
States, where the majority of air bag-related fatalities and
injuries have occurred, Takata is expected to continue its
search for a buyer or financial backer, a process which has
dragged on for a year.
Takata paid the $125 million on March 29 and must pay the
$850 million within five days of the "anticipated sale, merger,
acquisition, or combination involving a transfer of control of
Takata," Steeh wrote.
Mueller, now a partner at a WilmerHale, served as a federal
court settlement master in a series of Volkswagen AG
civil suits over excess emissions. Steeh plans to finalize the
appointment after hearing any potential objections.
Takata has declared about 100 million inflators defective
worldwide and automakers have recalled 46 million Takata air bag
inflators in 29 million U.S. vehicles. By 2019, automakers will
recall 64 to 69 million U.S. inflators in 42 million vehicles,
U.S regulators said in December.
In February, Steeh said automakers could be victims of
Takata's decisions to hide evidence for over 15 years that its
inflators were defective and still be subject to civil
litigation for harm done to individuals.
A person briefed on the matter said this week that
resolution might not be reached until late April or May.
Takata has denied investor speculation that it would have to
seek some form of bankruptcy protection in the United States or
Japan. In February, Steeh and lawyers for the Justice Department
alluded to the potential for Takata to collapse if it could not
find a buyer.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler)