VW Suffers Another Blow After 3 States File Suit Over Emissions Cheating

Jul 20, 2016
Originally published on July 20, 2016 7:58 am
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Three state attorneys general have filed suit against Volkswagen. The suits claim executives engaged in a cover-up to hide VW's deception about diesel vehicle emissions from regulators and the public. It's the latest blow to Volkswagens reputation, as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Massachusetts, Maryland and New York filed lawsuits accusing Volkswagen of breaking their environmental laws. The suits alleged not just that Volkswagen cheated regulators, but also covered it up. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says it wasn't just a single employee or a small group.

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MAURA HEALEY: But rather a calculated, concerted effort by dozens of employees, officers, senior executives, who worked together to orchestrate this plan to mislead regulators, researchers and the public.

GLINTON: Volkswagen admitted that it installed software in cars that allowed them to appear clean in emissions tests - a so-called defeat device. Healey explains how that was covered up.

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HEALEY: They made overly technical presentations designed to obfuscate and confuse regulators. They fought to prevent new models from being tested. And once tipped off, Volkswagen employees actually undertook to destroy incriminating documents.

GLINTON: The complaint alleges the deception reached into the office of the then-CEO and was nearly a decade in the making. Here's New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman.

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ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: The defeat devices were installed over the span of eight years by three different companies - three different car companies - in 14 different model cars. And there were modifications made to suit different types of cars. There's communication back and forth about how you can modify the cheating devices. This was a widespread conspiracy involving many, many people.

GLINTON: A statement by Volkswagen to NPR calls the suits regrettable and reads in part, quote, "the allegations and complaints filed by certain states today are essentially not new, and we have been addressing them in our discussions with U.S. federal and state authorities." Schneiderman says the evidence shows a pattern of behavior.

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SCHNEIDERMAN: There was a type of misconduct that, as an attorney, is particularly offensive. There was a total disregard for the rule of law. Volkswagen acted as though they were above the law. They had no respect for authorities in this country or in other countries - state, federal. They thought they were above the law.

GLINTON: Criminal investigations into Volkswagen are ongoing on three continents. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.