Ex-Regulators Hired by Toyota Staved Off Recalls

Former NHTSA officials helped end four probes into accelerators
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2010 2:15 PM CST
The Toyota symbol is seen on the hood of a snow-covered 2007 Camry in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)

(Newser) – Two former employees of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration helped Toyota end at least four investigations into issues with its accelerators, according to court and government documents. Toyota’s VP of regulatory affairs, Christopher Tinto, and one of his subordinates, Christopher Santucci, came to the automaker directly from the NHTSA, and later negotiated with the agency to prevent or limit investigations that could have led to recalls, Bloomberg reports.

"Toyota bamboozled NHTSA or NHTSA was bamboozled by itself," says a safety advocate who also worked for the agency. In one lawsuit, for example, Santucci testified that he had convinced the NHTSA to limit an unintended acceleration investigation to incidents lasting less than a second. “We discussed the scope,” he said. “You say it worked out well for Toyota, I think it worked out well for both the agency and Toyota.” Employing NHTSA alums to deal with the government is hardly an industry-standard practice; GM, Ford, Chrysler and Honda all say they employ no ex-regulators.

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