The fallout from Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scandal has grown even larger, as the federal district court judge overseeing the criminal trial of Volkswagen AG has approved a $2.8 billion criminal fine against the German automaker. The judge’s approval formalized a plea deal that the automaker worked out with federal prosecutors earlier this year, and which is in addition to a $1.5 billion civil penalty and the placement of an independent monitor within the company. One Volkswagen AG executive is currently in federal prison in Michigan awaiting trial on related charges, while five other executives currently out of the country have been indicted and an engineer who already pled guilty is awaiting sentencing.
Richard McCune, a partner at McCune Wright Arevalo, with a long history of representing injured consumers in automotive product litigation, said of the $2.8 billion criminal fine, “This is one more piece of evidence of how serious Volkswagen’s fraud was within the diesel scandal.”
“A Deliberate and Massive Fraud Perpetrated on the American Consumer”
The Volkswagen scandal came to light in 2015 when it was revealed that the automaker had fraudulently designed diesel cars to evade emissions testing by installation of a “defeat device.” This defeat device caused the cars to provide emissions readings during testing which showed them to be within legal limits, when, under normal driving conditions, the automobiles emitted up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide. The automaker has admitted it installed defeat devices on 11 million cars worldwide, with over 600,000 in the United States alone.
In approving the criminal fine, federal Judge Sean Cox said, “”This is a deliberate and massive fraud perpetrated on the American consumer, and it would seem, consumers throughout the world, and further described the fine as “just punishment.”
More criminal proceedings relating to the Volkswagen diesel scandal are still to come, as Oliver Schmidt, a Volkswagen executive who headed the automaker’s Michigan environmental compliance office awaits trial in a federal prison. He was arrested while trying to board a plane to Germany in January and was recently denied bail.