Volkswagen pleads guilty to cheating on diesel emissions tests


On Friday, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to fraud, obstruction of justice, and falsifying statements as part of a $4.3 billion settlement reached with the U.S. Justice Department over the German automaker’s “well thought-out” scheme to install secret software in nearly 600,000 vehicles to cheat on U.S. diesel emissions tests.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday:

Volkswagen AG (VW) pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit today to three felony counts charging: (1) conspiracy to defraud the United States, engage in wire fraud, and violate the Clean Air Act; (2) obstruction of justice; and (3) importation of merchandise by means of false statements.

As part of the plea, VW agreed to pay a $2.8 billion penalty as a result of the company’s decade-long scheme to sell diesel vehicles containing software designed to cheat on U.S. emissions tests.  In January 2017, VW had agreed to plead guilty to resolve these criminal charges.

VW’s legal counsel, Manfred Doess entered a plea at a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Detroit on behalf of the company, saying: “Your honor, VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts.”

The company’s guilty plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Sean Cox and a sentencing date was scheduled for Apr. 21 to approve the terms of the plea agreement.

VW’s legal woes began in September 2015 when reports emerged that VW knowingly cheated on emissions tests for at least six years, which led to the ousting of the automaker’s chief executive, a severely damaged reputation and nearly $21 billion in damage control costs.

In its efforts to make things right and win back buyers’ confidence, VW has agreed to spend up to $10 billion to buy back diesel-fueled vehicles that allegedly emit up to 40 times the legal limit for emissions. In addition, the company has agreed to pay at least $5,100 to each owner as compensation.

Judge Cox is reportedly considering a motion put forth by a lawyer for some vehicle owners on whether to allow additional restitution for victims. Cox stated, “This is a very, very, very serious crime. It is incumbent on me to make a considered decision.”

Furthermore, VW has agreed to sweeping reforms, new audits, and oversight by an independent monitor for three years, says the report.

A spokesperson for the automaker issued this statement regarding its legal entanglements:

“Volkswagen deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis. The agreements that we have reached with the U.S. government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear. Volkswagen today is not the same company it was 18 months ago.”

H/T: Reuters, U.S. Department of Justice

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