Feb. 10, 2010 -- In an exclusive interview with ABC News, a former top lawyer for Toyota claims the automaker regularly hid evidence of safety defects from consumers and regulators, and fostered a culture of "hypocrisy and deceit."
"You have to understand that Toyota in Japan does not have any respect for our legal system," said Dimitrios Biller, who worked as managing counsel for Toyota's American operations from 2003 to 2007. "They did not have any respect for our laws."
Biller handled product liability suits while with the company. He claims that when Toyota received poor results in a vehicle rollover test, it ordered a new test in order to receive better results. According to Biller, the company also made a practice of concealing proof of safety problems, and did not disclose information it was obligated to produce during litigation.
"They were hiding evidence, concealing evidence, destroying evidence, obstructing justice," said Biller.
According to Biller, when he was preparing information that showed possible safety issues with Toyota vehicles to provide to plaintiffs, as required by law, his boss told him to remember the "golden rule." When Biller asked what the golden rule was, he claims, his boss said, "Don't screw the client."
Asked if he thought Toyota would lie to the federal government, Biller answered, "In my view, absolutely."
Biller also said that Toyota's gas pedal was not the real cause of random acceleration incidents. "It's the electronic throttle control," he said. Biller said he based his opinion on information he'd learned while at Toyota, but could not disclose the evidence because "that would be privileged information."
'Toyota Takes Its Legal Obligations Seriously'
Biller received a $3.9 million settlement when he left Toyota, and also signed a non-disclosure agreement. Toyota sued him in 2008, alleging that he had violated the non-disclosure agreement. Biller filed his own suit a year later.
About two years into his tenure, said Biller, he began experiencing mental issues, which he claimed was related to the stress of his internal battle with the company. "There was an onslaught of depression that I sustained while I was at Toyota," he said, but added that he believes he is much improved since leaving.
Toyota denies Biller's charges and says he is just a disgruntled former employee who is angry he lost his job.
In a statement, Toyota said Biller had left the company in 2007, and would not have any knowledge about current matters.
"Mr. Biller continues to make inaccurate and misleading allegations about Toyota's conduct that we strongly dispute and will continue to fight against vigorously," said the statement. "Toyota takes its legal obligations seriously and works to uphold the highest professional and ethical standards."
Toyota also said Biller did not handle unwanted acceleration cases while he worked at the company.
Biller disputes that, saying he worked as the managing attorney for Toyota on a sudden acceleration case involving Lexuses that was filed in 2005.