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Key Toyota Executive in U.S. Quits

October 10, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Dennis Cuneo, one of Toyota Motor Corp.'s top three U.S. executives, left the company to rejoin his former law firm.

Cuneo, 56, retired from the automaker at the end of September and will return to Washington-based Arent Fox, Toyota spokeswoman Mira Sleilati said Monday. He will continue to advise Toyota's engineering and manufacturing unit as a consultant.

His departure came five months after his name surfaced in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against former North American Chief Executive Hideaki Otaka by Otaka's female assistant. The suit claimed that Cuneo failed to respond properly when the assistant complained about the harassment.

"I'm leaving on very good terms with Toyota," Cuneo said in an interview. "I'd been thinking about doing this since the beginning of the year."

Cuneo and Toyota spokeswoman Sleilati said the retirement was unrelated to the harassment suit, which was settled in August. Otaka left the company a week after the lawsuit was filed, saying he didn't want to be a distraction.

Cuneo was a senior vice president for Toyota and in charge of U.S. government relations and site selection for North American factories. Cuneo begins his job with Arent Fox on Nov. 1 as counsel for the firm's automotive group, spokeswoman Denise DeLorey said.

James Press, who became Toyota's North American president in May, will handle some of Cuneo's duties, Sleilati said. There are no plans to name a replacement.

Toyota didn't disclose the terms of its settlement with the former assistant, Sayaka Kobayashi, who had sought as much as $210 million in damages. The case drew unwanted publicity for Toyota in the media.

Cuneo joined Toyota in 1984 after stints with Arent Fox as well as the Justice Department. He was promoted to senior vice president in 2001.

Also Monday, Hyundai Motor Co. said the head of its U.S. marketing department, Michelle Cervantez, had resigned. Cervantez, 42, joined Fountain Valley-based Hyundai Motor America in August 2005 after stints at Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.

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