Ex-Director of F.B.I. Is Picked to Oversee Takata Restitution

Ex-Director of F.B.I. Is Picked to Oversee Takata Restitution

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A technician removes a recalled Takata airbag inflator in a Honda Pilot. The company recalled tens of millions of the devices for a defect that can cause the airbags to unexpectedly explode.

Credit
Joe Skipper/Reuters

Robert S. Mueller III, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is set to oversee nearly $1 billion that the airbag maker Takata has agreed to pay to victims and automakers affected by its defective airbags.

Takata pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 to fraud charges, acknowledging that it had provided false safety-test data to cover up a defect in its airbags. The defect causes its airbags to rupture violently when triggered, shooting metal shards toward the car’s occupants, and has been linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 180 injuries in the United States.

The company also agreed to pay a criminal penalty, set up a compensation fund for victims and pay restitution to automakers caught up in the recall of nearly 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles in the United States, and millions more overseas.

In a notice posted on Thursday, Judge George Caram Steeh of Federal District Court in Detroit said he intended to appoint Mr. Mueller to administer those payments. Parties to the agreement can still object to the appointment.

Robert S. Mueller III was selected to administer the nearly $1 billion Takata is paying to victims of its defective airbags.

Credit
Don Knight/The Herald-Bulletin, via Associated Press

A Takata spokesman, Jared Levy, declined to comment. Mr. Mueller could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Mueller, an F.B.I. director during the Bush and Obama administrations, has made a new career for himself overseeing complex settlements. He previously mediated talks that led to Volkswagen’s $14.7 billion settlement of claims stemming from its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Details of the Takata victims’ compensation fund still need to be worked out, including a timetable for setting up the program and accepting claims. Mr. Mueller and Takata will also have to agree on who will be eligible for compensation, and what proof they will have to submit.

Under a compensation scheme set up by General Motors, which established a procedure in 2014 to compensate victims of a fatal flaw in an ignition switch, claims were accepted for a limited period through a website and a toll-free number. Those who agreed to accept payments under the plan waived their right to sue G.M. for further punitive damages.

The fines and costs associated with the defect have taken a heavy financial toll on Takata, which has been looking for a buyer for months.

Takata’s chief executive, Shigehisa Takada, said last June that he would step down over the scandal. But as of Thursday, he was still listed as chairman and C.E.O. at the manufacturer, which is publicly traded but has been controlled by Mr. Takada’s family for more than 80 years.

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