Volkswagen is already in hot water after it was revealed that the automaker was altering their vehicle’s emissions results, causing the Environmental Protection Agency to file a civil suit against Volkswagen for its negligence, a failure that could lead to fines of up to $90 billion. Now, new evidence has since emerged that suggests that it wasn’t just a case of negligence after all, and that Volkswagen deliberately misled United States regulators when it was first confronted about irregularities in 2014. If proven correct, this evidence could further raise fines and strengthen a potential criminal case filed by the United States Justice Department against Volkswagen.
Memos obtained by German Bild am Sonntag indicate that top managers at Volkswagen were aware that altered vehicles could not be made compliant with environmental regulations while simultaneously telling American officials that they could. A months-long process of delay and deception would follow before the story officially broke to the public. This raises the question of whether former CEO Martin Winterkorn was also aware of the emissions cheating far earlier than he has claimed.
In addition to lawsuits from the United States government, Volkswagen could be subject to lawsuits from shareholders who claim that the company violated disclosure laws that require it to release information that may affect stock prices. Since the cheating scandal was made public, the value of Volkswagen stock has plummeted.
Amid ongoing investigations by internal auditors and German and American prosecutors, Volkswagen has not commented on these latest revelations. Two former senior employees at Volkswagen have anonymously commented that the documents are authentic but that Volkswagen did not obstruct the investigation as the memos suggest. Additional disclosure of documents could shine a brighter light on who knew what when and provide a clearer picture of where this investigation may lead.