Hiding behind German law, Volkswagen yesterday refused to provide U.S. prosecutors investigating the Dieselgate emissions scandal with documents they had requested. The prosecutors are investigating the VW’s installations of software routines on its diesel cars that cheat software emissions tests. Forty-eight state attorneys general have banded together to pursue the automaker. The Justice Department and German prosecutors are also investigating the world’s number two automaker.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen expressed what must be a common frustration among the state prosecutors. He said, in a statement yesterday that “I find it frustrating that, despite public statements professing cooperation and an expressed desire to resolve the various investigations that it faces following its calculated deception, Volkswagen is, in fact, resisting cooperation by citing German law.”
Since the start of Dieselgate in September when the automaker admitted to cheating, VW has consistently promised to work with authorities to clean up the scandal. Indeed, Matthias Mueller, chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG, who will be holding high-level talks with officials in Washington next week, has consistently promised to work with authorities. He vowed to establish a culture of transparency regarding the emissions cheating crisis. Now it appears that VW is turning that promise on its head by withholding information as a key part of its apparent strategy to blunt the various probes.
That doesn’t mean, though, that the automaker hasn’t felt the sting of the legal whip. Just last week, the Justice Department that it was seeking as much as $48 billion in damages under a four-count civil suit charging violations of the clean air act. And, Justice acknowledged that VW could still face criminal charges.
Still, though, the AG’s are upset. According to a New York Times story yesterday, the prosecutors feelings are pretty much summed up by a statement from New York state’s chief law enforcement officer. “Our patience with Volkswagen is wearing thin,” said, New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. “Volkswagen’s cooperation with the states’ investigation has been spotty — and frankly, more of the kind one expects from a company in denial than one seeking to leave behind a culture of admitted deception.” A Volkswagen spokesman painted a much rosier picture. In a statement yesterday, the unidentified spokesman said, “We are in permanent exchange with U.S. authorities and are cooperating closely with them.”
Frankly, the Justice Department’s position is quite similar to the attorneys general. According to Automotive News, the Justice suit said the government’s “efforts to learn the truth about the (excess) emissions … were impeded and obstructed by material omissions and misleading information provided by VW entities.”
Volkswagen hired Deloitte, a U.S. advisory firm, as well as Jones-Day, a law firm, to conduct a probe of the cheatware scandal that saw the automaker install emissions scamware on nearly 600,000 four- and six-cylinder diesel powerplants. The automaker has pinned the scandal on a small cadre of employees.