While Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda sits answering questions on Capitol Hill, the FBI confirmed with us they raided the offices of three Toyota suppliers in Metro Detroit for documents related to antitrust violations. UPDATE!
The FBI just confirmed to us they raided the offices of Yazaki North America, Denso International and Tokai Rika (TRAM). Though all are Toyota supplies they've yet to confirm if this is a part of an ongoing probe into Toyota's 1.4 million unit recall, and a larger antitrust action confirmed by Toyota to MSNBC.
According to Denso spokesperson Bridgette Gollinger "this is not related to the Toyota Recall investigation," though she was unable to comment on what this was related to.
This announcement comes at the same time as Toyota Motor Corp. CEO Akio Toyoda takes the stand in Washington, DC and follows a report that the SEC was looking into the embattled automakers.
The AP reports that this potentially creates
"new public relations challenges for Toyota plus the prospects - however likely or unlikely - of hefty federal fines or even indictments against executives in the U.S. and Japan. They also complicate Toyota's ability to discuss details driving its recall of 8.5 million vehicles because anything executives say could be used against the company inside a courtroom."
All of this happened yesterday evening and coincides with the announcement (below) by Toyota earlier this week that said they'd cooperate with the Securities and Exchange Commission on inquiries into whether or not it misled investors.
Toyota Statement on SEC Request
On February 19, 2010, Toyota Motor Corporation ("TMC") and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. ("TMS"), received a voluntary request and a subpoena, respectively, from the Los Angeles office of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, seeking production of certain documents including those related to unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and the company's disclosure policies and practices.
TMC and TMS intend to cooperate with the investigations and are currently preparing their responses.
UPDATE: It's possible this is actually related to a larger investigation into electronics manufacturers who have been charged with fixing prices charged to automakers as part of a cartel. If this is part of that investigation it could mean Toyota is possibly a victim both of unfair trade practices and all the bad press from having their suppliers raided by the FBI.