U.S. Seeks Stern Slap on Wrist, Wants $16M from Toyota

Toyota is reportedly desperately scrambling to come up with a repayment plan for this massive fine.

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The Department of Transportation has levied a record fine against Toyota for its failure to notify them about their manufacturing problems. $16 million-dollars may be a record fine, but it's a drop in the bucket for Toyota

In announcing the fine, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the government now has proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations. In a statement, LaHood blasted Toyota, saying the company "knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."

The $16.35 million fine is the largest the government can levy. Toyota reported earning $2 billion in the last three months of 2009. It has two weeks to notify the government whether it will accept the fine or contest it.

In a statement, the company said it has taken several important steps to improve communication with regulators and customers on safety-related matters, but it did not say whether Toyota will contest the fine.

According to reports, one Toyota exec is quoted as having moaned, "16 million? But where will we get our beer money from?"