Justice News

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at a Press Conference Announcing Criminal and Civil Actions Against Volkswagen
Washington, DC
United States
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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for being here.  I am joined today by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Leslie Caldwell; Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division John Cruden; Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Ben Mizer; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade; FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy; EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles; Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Deputy Secretary Russell Deyo; Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAleenan; and David Gelios, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division.  

We are here to announce a number of significant developments in the federal government’s ongoing investigation into Volkswagen’s (VW) attempts to dodge emissions standards and import falsely certified vehicles into the country – an egregious violation of our nation’s environmental, consumer protection and financial laws.  For years, VW advertised its vehicles as complying with federal anti-pollution measures.  But in fact, hundreds of thousands of cars that VW sold in the United States were pumping illegal levels of nitrogen oxides into our atmosphere – up to 40 times more than the amounts permitted under federal law.  What’s more, these vehicles were equipped with software that masked the true amount of pollutants the cars released, thwarting regulators during environmental testing. 

Today, the Department of Justice, the EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have reached a global resolution with VW that carries both criminal and civil penalties.  As part of this resolution, VW is pleading guilty to three felonies: conspiracy to defraud the United States, to commit wire fraud, and to violate the Clean Air Act; obstruction of justice; and importation of goods by false statements.  The agreement also requires VW to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties and take specific measures to prevent future violations.  These sanctions are in addition to more than $15 billion in settlements with VW that we have previously announced.  And as part of the criminal plea, VW will also be placed on three years’ probation; it will retain an independent monitor to oversee its ethics and compliance program; and it will fully cooperate with our ongoing investigation into the individuals responsible for these crimes.  

Furthermore, we are today announcing the indictment of six former high-level VW executives: Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, Jens Hadler, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jürgen Peter, and Oliver Schmidt.  These individuals all held positions of significant responsibility at VW, including overseeing the company’s engine development division and serving on the company’s management board.  Over the course of a conspiracy that lasted for nearly a decade, they seriously abused those positions, and today, they are being charged with a range of crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, violations of the Clean Air Act, and wire fraud.  

Today’s actions reflect the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to defending consumers, protecting our environment and our financial system, and holding individuals and companies accountable for corporate wrongdoing.  But this announcement does not mean our investigation is complete.  We will continue to examine Volkswagen’s attempts to mislead consumers and deceive the government.  We will continue to pursue the individuals responsible for orchestrating this damaging conspiracy.  And we will continue to vigorously enforce the laws of the United States.

I want to thank all of the men and women from the Department of Justice, EPA and CBP, who have worked tirelessly to secure this resolution, and who continue to carry this investigation forward.  And at this time, I would like to invite EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to the podium to say more about today’s announcement.