Ongoing diesel damage: NY, MA, and MD sue Volkswagen and execs who lied and destroyed evidence

July 20th, 2016 by .  The story continues to get uglier for Volkswagen and top executives as three US states open new lawsuits against Volkswagen, naming specific Volkswagen staff, for lying, deceiving regulators and the public, and even destroying evidence. Here’s more in a Gas2 repost.

New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland have filed lawsuits in their respective state courts seeking millions of dollars in damages for the higher-than-permitted emissions of the diesel engine cars VW sold in those states starting in 2009. The attorneys general for each state say they now know who lied, who destroyed evidence, and who in upper management knew about the cheating scandal but failed to act. They say they are ready to name names.

Volkswagen grille

The suits charge that dozens of Volkswagen employees at various levels knew that the company’s “clean diesel” engines could not meet pollution standards in normal driving without compromises to performance or fuel economy. The suits publicly identify many of these employees and accuse them of “unlawful conduct.”

They also say at least eight employees in the company’s engineering department deleted or removed incriminating data in August 2015 after a senior attorney advised them of an impending order not to destroy documents. The New York suit stated that “some but not all of the data has been recovered.” Destruction of evidence could lead to criminal charges being filed. It is also grounds for disbarment.

The New York lawsuit alleges that the Volkswagen chairman at the time, Martin Winterkorn, and former global head of marketing Christian Klingler knew in the spring of 2014 about “the existence of unlawful ‘defeat devices’ and did nothing to prevent both Audi and Volkswagen from repeatedly deceiving regulators.”

Winterkorn succeeded Ferdinand Piech as head of the company after a boardroomcoup d’etat in the spring of 2015. Many people believe it was the autocratic Piech who first bullied his staff into creating the cheating software. Winterkorn’s involvement is a blow to German national pride. He was widely considered the finest engineer in all of Germany, a nation that places a high value on engineering skill. German prosecutors said last month they are investigating Winterkorn.

In a statement, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the suit is aimed at sending a message “to all auto manufacturers that violating laws designed to protect our environment and our public health is unacceptable and will be punished with significant penalties.” Prosecutors say they have combed through 1.1 million documents totaling 7.5 million pages during their nine-month-long investigation.

The New York suit claims that current CEO Matthias Mueller, who was head of project management at Audi, and Winterkorn became aware in July 2006 of the effect that undersized urea tanks were having on the company’s ability to comply with emissions standards. It says VW opted to install defeat software instead of larger tanks, in order to save money. The defeat software was devised because the soot filter needed to capture particulates in the exhaust stream would break within 50,000 miles if used all the time. US regulations required the soot filter to last longer than that.

For its part, Volkswagen has reacted like a whipped puppy. Spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan criticized the states’ decision to file suit after the company has already agreed to spend billions to address all environmental damages from the excess emissions. These state claims “are essentially not new and we have been addressing them in our discussions with U.S. federal and state authorities,” Ginivan said. “It is regrettable that some states have decided to sue for environmental claims now.”

It looks like the long corporate nightmare for Volkswagen is far from over.

Source: Automotive News | Photo Credit: Massachusetts Attorney General