The settlement talks between the US Justice Department + California Air Resources Board and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in relation to purported diesel vehicle emissions fraud are now in an “advanced” phase, the court-appointed advisor overseeing the process revealed yesterday.
The advisor in question, Ken Feinberg, stated at a court hearing in San Francisco that the talks were progressing “at a rather swift pace,” and that lawyers for the government and for Fiat Chrysler had now exchanged and “redlined” each others documents.
This news follows accusations by authorities in the US that Fiat Chrysler had used illegal “defeat device” software — meant to game the country’s emissions testing protocols — in more than 104,000 diesel vehicles sold in the US since 2014. Those allegations of course follow from the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal.
Reuters provides more: “A lawyer for Fiat Chrysler, Robert Giuffra, said the company and government lawyers were exchanging drafts of settlement documents. He said he expected a settlement would be reached ‘probably sometime during the summer.’
“The Justice Department sent Fiat Chrysler lawyers a January 27 settlement offer that would require the company to offset excess pollution and take steps to prevent future excess emissions, Reuters reported in February. The letter included language that a settlement must include very substantial civil penalties.
“Lawyers in court did not disclose the potential amount of any fine state and federal governments would want Fiat Chrysler to pay as part of any settlement or if the sides had agreed on that issue. … Fiat Chrysler and the Justice Department have discussed some consumer-related provisions that could be part of a settlement including warranty and recall provisions.”
As it stands, the company denies wrongdoing of any kind, and maintains that the intent was never to create software meant to game the emissions testing process. On that note, it should be remembered that the US Justice Department still has an investigation going on the matter.
In contrast to the Volkswagen investigation, since Fiat Chrysler execs have a home country with an extradition policy with the US, some Fiat Chrysler execs may well end up facing sentencing in the US. (There was one exception in the former case, of course.)
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