The US he Department of Justice (DOJ) charged six Volkswagen executives for their role in the 2015 emissions scandal, including lying lying to the lawmakers. The DOJ has also accused them of destroying relevant documents and has directed the automaker to pay $4.3 billion in fines. These pertain to criminal and civil penalties faced by the carmaker in relation to the federal investigation.
An article in the New York Times states that the fines, along with money paid in settlement of suits with car owners brings Volkswagen’s outgoings up to $20 billion. This makes the emissions scandal one of the costliest ones in the history of US corporate scandals. Additionally, the DOJ has also charged the company with wire fraud, for violating the Clean Air Act and obstruction of justice. Six senior Volkswagen executives are also facing criminal charges for their role in this scandal.
An article in The Guardian states that Richard Dorenkamp, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Bernd Gottweis, Jürgen Peter, Jens Hadler and Oliver Schmidt will face prosecution for their role in the scandal. They are accused of conspiring to defraud the US. Out of the six, Schmidt is the only one, who resides in US. The police arrested him in Florida last week.
Volkswagen has formally pleaded guilty to the charges; a notable feat achieved by the US DOJ. As a result, the car giant will now have to submit to criminal probation for three years, states an article in ARS Technica. It will also have to get an independent auditor on onboard. This auditor will supervise the company’s ethics and compliance program. In addition, Volkswagen has agreed to cooperate with the DOJ in its investigations of the six individual executives accused in the scandal.
What is the Volkswagen scandal and why are these executives charged?
A 2014 West Virginia University study showed that its cars polluted the environment much more in real life than during official tests. As a result, Volkswagen came under investigation as early as 2014. Later, authorities also discovered illegal software or defeat device in the diesel engine of many Volkswagen cars in 2015. These included Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches. This software could detect if the car was in test conditions, states an article in BBC. Hence, even though the vehicles met the US standards during testing, they polluted much more in real-world driving. Experts state that the cars polluted the environment with nitrogen oxide outputs by up to 40 time more than what is stipulated by the US.
While earlier the company attributed the presence of software to ‘rogue engineers,’ it later had to co-operate with the DOJ for the role played by its top officers in the scandal. The six accused are former senior Volkswagen executives. These executives had links with the the company’s engine development, compliance, quality assurance and research and engineering departments. An article in The Washington Post states that these executives directed the employees to develop and install the defeat device. They then marketed the cars as ‘clean’. They even asked employees, who raised objections to ‘not get caught,’ states an article in MSN.com. However, it was in August 2015, that one of them came forward and told the regulators about the defeat devices.
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