Takata executives knew about problems with the company's airbags for years but neglected to inform automakers about them, according to an indictment unsealed late last week.
The Associated Press reports that three longtime executives at the Japanese auto parts manufacturer — including at its U.S. headquarters near Detroit — were each indicted by a Michigan grand jury last month on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The charges stemmed from funds transferred between 2012 and 2015 — when Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi stopped working at Takata — but the indictment alleged that the trio knew as early as 2000 that Takata airbag inflators failed tests and did not meet performance standards.
The executives allegedly used "false and fraudulent reports and other information that concealed the true condition of the inflators" from automakers.
"Defendants commonly referred to the removal or alteration of unfavorable test data that was to be provided to Takata customers as 'XX-ing' the data," the indictment indicated, according to the AP.
The document also indicated that Tanaka and Nakajima, in separate 2005 emails, each wrote that they "had no choice" but to alter testing data.
Takata is already subject to the largest automotive industry recall in U.S. history after investigators found that the propellant in its inflators could degrade and explode. The defect is reportedly blamed for at least 16 deaths in the U.S.
The embattled company recently agreed to settle a criminal investigation, which would include pleading guilty to a criminal charge and a $1 billion penalty, Bloomberg reported.