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Record Penalties, Criminal Charges in VW US Diesel Emissions Scandal Settlement

In a press conference today, the US Department of Justice, along with the EPA, US Customs and Border Protection, and several other agencies announced that they had reached a plea bargain settlement with Volkswagen AG over its diesel emissions scandal that would see the automaker pay a record amount in civil and criminal penalties, see the company plead guilty to multiple charges, and sees six current and former VW executives indicted on criminal charges.

Speaking about the diesel emissions cheat and cover up, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that Volkswagen "knew of these problems and when regulators expressed concern, they obfuscated, denied, and ultimately lied." As a result, the Department of Justice, EPA, and US Customs and Border Protection have reached a settlement with Volkswagen that sees VW plead guilty to charges of defrauding the US, to committing wire fraud, to violating the Clean Air Act, to obstruction of justice, and to importation of goods by false ignorance. The penalty for VW is $4.3 billion US in criminal and civil payments.

These penalties come in addition to the expected $15 billion in settlements to owners of the nearly 600,000 affected vehicles. Volkswagen as a company will be placed on three years probation. They will be required to have an independent monitor ensuring ethics and compliance and will have to separate the management of product development from product emissions testing.

In addition to the corporate plea, six VW current or former executives have been indicted in Michigan on charges related to the emissions scandal. The Department of Justice says that they "all held positions of significant responsibility in Volkswagen... over the course of a conspiracy that lasted nearly a decade." Charges will include conspiracy to defraud the US, Clean Air Act violations, and wire fraud.
The executives named include former heads of engine development for VW Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, and Richard Dorenkam, along with supervisor for quality management and product safety Bernd Gottweis, general manager in charge of the environment and engineering office Oliver Schmidt, and Jürgen Peter a liaison between VW and regulatory agencies. Schmidt was arrested last week while visiting Florida, with the others believed to currently reside in Germany.

The Department of Justice stated that the investigation is still ongoing and that more charges could follow.