Exclusive: Takata retains prominent lawyer Levander in air bag scandal

Tue Nov 18, 2014 6:41pm EST
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By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Takata Corp said on Tuesday it has hired Andrew Levander, a prominent New York defense lawyer, to oversee legal matters including a criminal probe stemming from a growing scandal about its defective air bags.

More than 17 million cars have been recalled worldwide since 2008 for defects in the Japanese manufacturer's air bag inflators. Five deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to the flaw, which can cause air bags to rupture upon deployment, spraying metal shards inside the car.

    A federal grand jury in Manhattan has subpoenaed Takata's U.S. unit to produce documents on the defects, a company spokesman said last week. The company said it is cooperating.

Takata also faces more than 20 class-action lawsuits, congressional scrutiny and a probe from the U.S. auto safety regulator. 

    Levander is a partner in Dechert LLP's white collar practice and a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan. Takata is relying on Levander to lead a team of lawyers who will handle both criminal and civil matters.

Known for his bowties, Levander brings to Takata a track record of representing entities dealing with scandals that force them to talk under oath while also under scrutiny from enforcement authorities and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

He has represented Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor and one-time CEO of MF Global, over the company's collapse; and Robert Diamond, former CEO of Barclays, over the bank's manipulation of the Libor benchmark interest rate. He also has represented companies including GlaxoSmithKline and Hewlett-Packard. 

A Takata executive, Hiroshi Shimizu, is due to testify at a Senate hearing about the defects and the slow response from industry and regulators.   Continued...

Displays of Takata Corp are pictured at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo in this file photo taken November 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files