Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In Volkswagen investigation, Justice Department finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

USA Today (8/15, 6.54M) reports Justice Department investigators found evidence of criminal wrongdoing in Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions scandal and are currently negotiating a settlement with the auto maker that will involve charges and financial penalties. Sources familiar with the investigation said that federal attorneys are still deciding which specific criminal charges to bring against Volkswagen, and it is still unclear whether prosecutors plan to criminally charge Volkswagen employees. Ars Technica (8/15, 1.22M) explains that those charges, if brought against Volkswagen, could involve misleading both regulators and consumers. Prosecutors did not disclose the specific charges it may bring against Volkswagen. The Verge (8/15, Golson, 963K) says the prosecutors are determining whether to secure a guilty plea to the criminal charges from Volkswagen or arrange a “deferred prosecution agreement” and dismiss the charges if Volkswagen adheres to the settlement terms.
        Reuters (8/15) confirms the two sources and adds that they said progress on reaching a settlement in the criminal probe has been stunted by the three state civil suits brought against Volkswagen in June. Reuters said the criminal investigation could result in the largest fine ever imposed on a car manufacturer.
        The Wall Street Journal (8/15, Spector, Viswanatha, Subscription Publication, 6.51M) reports Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in June hinted that the criminal probe involved “multiple individuals,” and has also said that the investigators are examining about 1.5 million documents in the investigation. Federal prosecutors and Volkswagen’s legal team have held preliminary discussions on the matter and are seeking to settle the anticipated case before the end of 2016. According to Road and Track (8/15, Perkins, 2.66M), however, the settlement for the criminal charges could be finalized as late as 2017. The article notes that because many of the Volkswagen employees involved in the scandal live in Germany, they would need to be extradited to the US if the Justice Department decides to press charges against them.

        Reuters (8/15, Shepardson, Schectman) reports that “the pace of VW’s internal investigation together with complications from separate civil suits filed in July by three U.S. states have slowed progress on reaching a settlement of the criminal investigation, according to people familiar with the probe.” A VW spokesman said the company “is committed to earning back the trust of our customers, dealers, regulators and the American public. As we have said previously, Volkswagen is cooperating with federal and state regulators in the United States, including the Department of Justice, and our discussions are continuing toward a resolution of remaining issues.” Meanwhile, Reuters says “the fine to resolve the U.S. criminal investigation could be the largest ever imposed on an automaker.” 

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