VW emissions-cheating deal could put employees in hot seat

  • Get News Alerts

Photo Source: Getty Images


The imminent criminal plea deal between Volkswagen and U.S. prosecutors in an emissions-cheating scandal could be bad news for one group of people: VW employees who had a role in the deceit or subsequent cover-up.

VW on Tuesday disclosed that it is in advanced talks to settle the criminal case by pleading guilty to unspecified charges and paying $4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines, a sum far larger than any recent case involving the auto industry.

It's likely that VW will agree to cooperate in the probe, turning over documents and other information, said David M. Uhlmann, a former chief of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section who is now a University of Michigan law professor.

"Companies often face the dilemma of whether to protect their employees or cooperate with government investigations, but almost always end up deciding in the company's best interest to share what information they have," Uhlmann said.

Although VW's communications with lawyers may be exempt, emails between employees and company executives should help prosecutors reach as far up VW's organizational chart as the scandal went, he said. Prosecutors now have three witnesses giving them information and have arrested Oliver Schmidt, VW's former head of U.S. environmental compliance who dealt with the EPA and California Air Resources Board after the scandal was uncovered.

The cooperation of witnesses and the company should help investigators determine if the scandal went beyond VW's engineers, Uhlmann said. But extraditing any executives from Germany would be a problem.

Volkswagen has admitted equipping diesel cars with sophisticated software that turned on emissions controls when engines were being tested by the Environmental Protection Agency, then turned them off during normal driving. The software, called a "defeat device" because it defeated the emissions controls, improved engine performance but spewed out harmful nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times above the legal limit.

Volkswagen has reached a $15 billion civil settlement with environmental authorities and car owners in the U.S. under which it agreed to buy back up to 500,000 vehicles. The company also faces an investor lawsuit and criminal probe in Germany. In all, some 11 million vehicles worldwide were equipped with the software.

The criminal investigation likely will continue into the administration of President-elect Donald Trump and attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions. Uhlmann, who served under Republican and Democratic attorneys general, doesn't think the new administration will back off from the VW prosecution.

"All administrations want to be tough on crime, including corporate crime," he said. "I doubt the Trump administration will be any different."

A draft of the VW settlement with the government calls for the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee compliance and control measures for three years. The draft still must be approved by Volkswagen's boards and U.S. courts.

The scandal was revealed in September 2015, when West Virginia University tested on-road diesel emissions. The EPA issued a notice of violation, and VW apologized and brought in U.S. law firm Jones Day to investigate.

If finalized, a $4.3 billion settlement would eclipse Toyota's $1.2 billion penalty over unintended acceleration problems as well as General Motors' $900 million payment to resolve a deadly ignition-switch scandal.

Comments

More News

  • Under-fire Uber CEO Kalanick resigns

    Under-fire Uber CEO Kalanick resigns Travis Kalanick, the combative and troubled CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber, resigned Tuesday under pressure from investors. The company’s board confirmed the move early Tuesday, saying in a statement that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident “while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history.” He will remain on the Uber Technologies Inc. board.

  • Gold, silver prices stable

    Gold, silver prices stable The prices of gold and silver have remained stable on Sunday. According to Federation of Gold and Silver Dealers' Association, the precious yellow metal is being traded at Rs 54,500 per tola.

  • Nepal-China trade fair kicks off in Korala

    The Nepal-China inter-country trade fair has commenced from Thursday at the Korala transit point on the Nepal-Tibet border. Identity cards have been made mandatory for the Nepalis of the border region for participating in the 10-day trade fair. The Chinese and Nepali businessmen have already reached the border area with their merchandise.

  • Gold, silver prices stable

    Gold, silver prices stable The prices of gold and silver have remained stable on Wednesday. According to Federation of Gold and Silver Dealers' Association, the precious yellow metal is being traded at Rs 54,800 per tola.

  • Nepal-Hong Kong trade fair from June 24

    Nepal-Hong Kong trade fair is to be organized at Hong Kong Cultural Center from June 24. Consulate General of Nepal in Hong Kong, Hong Kong-Nepalese Business Association and Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal are jointly organizing a two-day event.

Opinion

  • RJP's suicidal move RJP's suicidal move

    Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP) has announced protest programs including general strike to disrupt the upcoming second round of local election. Formation of RJP with merger of six Madhes-based parties had sent a positive message both to the plains and the hills.

    Editorial

  • Maoist commitment torn in Bharatpur Maoist commitment torn in Bharatpur

    There is no confusion about who tore the ballots in Bharatpur. Nepal Police under Prime Minister (PM) Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi has already revealed that Maoist cadres, who tore the ballots, have been arrested. The only remaining questions are why CPN (Maoist Center) tore the ballots and what happens next.

    Editorial

Blog

  • Why shy away? Why shy away?

    People (specifically men) urinate in public, smoke openly, get drunk in public places, and they just get away with it. Isn't it a bizarre world where all of these things can actually happen openly and girls have to feel ashamed about the most natural phenomenon?

    Bibhu Thapaliya Shrestha

  • Staying true to our environmental roots Staying true to our environmental roots

    Although we had so important practise why did we miss to internalize it? AGIL paradigm is the best way which helps us understand why we failed. The AGIL paradigm is a sociological scheme created by American sociologist Talcott Parsons in the 1950s. It is a systematic depiction of certain societal functions, which every society must meet to be able to maintain stable social life.

    Sanjay Adhikari

Readers Column

  • Traffic Police in Kathmandu

    As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.

  • Menstrual taboo outdated

    I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.

Popular

Recommended

Suchanapati