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Volkswagen Sued by Three States in Emissions Scandal

Emma D'Arpino2 months ago

Reuters reported that New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland filed lawsuits against Volkswagen because executives from the car company covered up evidence that the automaker cheated on U.S. diesel emissions tests for years.

About the Volkswagen Emission Lawsuits

In three separate lawsuits, New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland, accuse Volkswagen of violating their environmental laws.  The lawsuits could lead to state fines of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The lawsuits allege that Volkswagen has been deceiving regulators in the United States and Europe for over a decade. Almost a year ago, Volkswagen admitted to using sophisticated secret software in its cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests.  The recent lawsuits could be even more damaging for the automaker company.

The states are claiming that dozens of Volkswagen employees knew that the company’s “clean diesel” engines could not meet pollution standards in normal driving without it being at the expense of either the performance or fuel economy.  These employees were publicly identified and accused of “unlawful conduct.”  According to the lawsuit filed by New York, some of the incriminating data that was deleted/removed by employees in the engineering department has been recovered.

Scope of the Emissions Scandal

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “This cover-up was deep, wide and long-lasting.  It extended from front-line engineers throughout the corner offices, and right into the CEO suites.”  Additionally, Schneiderman’s office said that more states could file similar actions.

There are about 60,000 Volkswagen diesel vehicles with excess emissions in the United States, and close to 53,000 of those vehicles were sold in New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

A spokeswoman for Volkswagen, Jeannine Ginivan, said that the company agreed to spend billions of dollars to address all environmental harms from the excess emissions.

Further Information About the Subpoenas from New York

New York’s Department of Financial Services has sent separate subpoenas to Volkswagen Group of America and Volkswagen’s Credit Unit.  The subpoenas contain requests for documents regarding the use of “defeat devices”.

According to the suits, after Volkswagen learned that real-world testing on two Volkswagen diesel cars detected emissions 5-35 times the legally allowable limit, the head of group quality management for Volkswagen wrote, “a thorough explanation for the dramatic increase in nitrogen oxide emissions cannot be given to the authorities.”

The suit also says that Volkswagen was aware of the effects of the undersized urea tanks, but rather than install larger tanks, the company installed defeat software in an effort to save money.  Additionally, Schneiderman told reporters that the current CEO of Volkwagen, Matthias Muller, “was made aware of some aspects of this problem” and that “he clearly was in the loop.”

Volkswagen admitted that it installed improper software that deactivated pollution controls, and agreed to pay $15.3 billion to settle charges that the company violated consumer fraud laws.

The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency have not yet reached a deal with Volkswagen on fines as part of separate settlement that could lead to an outside monitor overseeing Volkswagen’s compliance with American laws. Volkwagen also faces a Justice Department criminal investigation

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