Under scrutiny from a U.S. House committee and with its president set to testify on Capitol Hill next week, Toyota has turned to a King & Spalding lawyer with a long history of representing corporations under congressional investigation.
Theodore Hester, a partner in the firm's Washington office, is representing the troubled Japanese automaker, congressional aides said. Hester is part of King & Spalding’s government advocacy and public policy practice group. Over the years he has registered to lobby for defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., pharmaceutical companies, and others.
A decade ago, Hester was involved in another inquiry into auto safety when he helped counsel Bridgestone/Firestone after the company recalled 6.5 million tires.
Along with the late Griffin Bell, a former U.S. attorney general, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Hester represented the Atlanta foundation that organized the city’s bid for the 1996 summer Olympics. After the Olympics were over, congressional investigators looked into whether the foundation improperly tried to influence the International Olympic Committee in order to win the bidding.
So far, Toyota has not faced a congressional subpoena. But on Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subpoenaed documents from Dimitrios Biller, a former in-house lawyer for Toyota. The documents relate to concerns about safety and defects in Toyota’s vehicles, and the automaker has been trying to keep them confidential in litigation with Biller, as The National Law Journal reported this morning.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda has accepted an invitation to testify before the committee Feb. 24. He’s expected to discuss problems in acceleration and braking that contributed to the recall of almost 8 million of his company’s cars since the fall.
Last week, Hester wrote a letter to the committee that promised “renewed vigor” by Toyota in the examination of safety concerns while also disclosing the possibility of an expanded recall related to a system designed to prevent sudden acceleration. Hester did not return messages requesting comment.
Jeff Jeffrey contributed to this story.