The long legal saga over Volkswagen’s attempts to cheat US emissions tests seems to finally be reaching an end. Not only has one of the company’s major executives been arrested, but the company has negotiated a $4.3 billion draft settlement with the US Justice Department as part of a civil and criminal settlement. The company also plans to plead guilty to criminal misconduct.
The amount of the settlement still needs the approval of a judge before it’s finalized. While it’s far short of the $15 billion settlement previously reported in October, it appears that President Barack Obama is trying to rush the final settlement through before he leaves office. With incoming President Donald Trump’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge the existence of climate change or the human health impacts of air pollution, it’s probably for the best that the suit is resolved as soon as possible.
The scandal began in 2015, when the company admitted to installing software in diesel vehicles intended to cheat emissions tests. In early 2016, the Justice Department accused the automaker of purposely violating the Clean Air Act and filed suit against the company. Hundreds of thousands of cars in the US were affected, and as many as 11 million worldwide might have similar software installed.
Over the next two years, VW will be required to buy back or fix “dirty” US vehicles. There are still a number of unresolved lawsuits from US investors and 20 separate US states, as well. More individual executives may still end up facing charges, a Justice Department source stated to Reuters on Tuesday. The previous CEO of the company, Martin Winterkorn, was forced to resign as a result of the scandal in 2015.