Stockholders, led by the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, filed a consolidated complaint Monday in federal court in Los Angeles alleging the world's largest automaker concealed problems related to its cars accelerating out of control, Bloomberg News reported.
Citing Toyota's own internal documents, the group of investors said the car company knew about the defects as early as 2000 and "stonewalled" regulators to avoid recalls.
The group alleges Toyota shares have lost $30 billion in market value because of recalls related to unintended acceleration.
The Maryland pension fund seeks to represent investors who bought Toyota shares in the form of American depository receipts from May 10, 2005 until Feb. 2, 2010, shortly after Toyota announced the recalls. It is also seeking to represent shareholders who bought common stock during the same period through claims under Japanese law.
Toyota responded to the complaint via email, telling Bloomberg that the shareholders' assertions were unfounded.
The automaker's recall of vehicles related to unintended acceleration has involved two separate campaigns: one to shave gas pedals to prevent them from getting hung up on rubber floor mats; and a second to repair sticky gas pedals.
The latter recall was the subject of a record $16.4 million fine by U.S. regulators for Toyota's failure to disclose quickly enough what it knew about the defect.
In premarket trading Tuesday on Wall Street, Toyota shares were down fractionally to $71.85 each. The stock is down about 14% for the year.