Volkswagen has plead guilty in US courts to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice, and the entry of goods by false statement. The guilty plea was accepted by US District Judge Sean Cox, who noted when commenting on sentencing: “This is a very, very, very serious crime. It is incumbent on me to make a considered decision.”
Sentencing has been slated for April 21st, though, so we have to wait quite a while to find out what the company is actually facing legally — that’s when Cox will decide whether or not the terms of the plea deal will be approved.
Reports are that Cox is considering a motion made by a lawyer working for an owners group that would see additional restitution provided to owners of Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles.
The guilty plea represents the first time that Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to criminal conduct anywhere in the world at any time, according to a company spokesperson anyway — I haven’t been able to completely verify this.
Reuters provides more:
“Volkswagen’s general counsel Manfred Doess made the plea on its behalf after he said at a hearing in US District Court in Detroit that he was authorized by the company’s board of directors to enter a guilty plea.
“‘Your honor, VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts,’ Doess told the court. …
“Volkswagen agreed to change the way it operates in the United States and other countries under the settlement. VW, the world’s largest automaker by sales, in January agreed to pay $4.3 billion in US civil and criminal fines.
“The company still faces ongoing investigations stemming from the excess emissions by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Internal Revenue Service and some US states. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told Reuters last month that there have been recent settlement talks, but didn’t elaborate. …
“The Justice Department also charged seven current and former VW executives with crimes related to the scandal. One executive is in custody and awaiting trial and another pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate. US prosecutors said in January that 5 of the 7 are believed to be in Germany. They have not been arraigned.”
Commenting on the company’s fraud scheme, an assistant US attorney by the name of John Neal noted that it “was a well thought-out, planned offense that went to the top of the organization.”
A statement on the matter from Volkswagen read: “Volkswagen deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis. The agreements that we have reached with the US 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.”
On a related note, VW Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch stated earlier this week that the company would be broadening internal “disciplinary action” to encompass more than the two dozen or so employees currently affected. Going after the small fry, I see. … I have to wonder what the company’s opinion is on the 5 execs that have been charged by the US Justice Department that are hiding out in Germany.