In nearly every comment and press release dealing with US legal action over Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal, the company says something along the lines of, "We are in permanent exchange with U.S. authorities and are cooperating closely with them." That quote came from a January 8 article in the New York Times. However, three of the attorneys general leading a 48-state investigation are on record saying that that's not the case. Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen told the Times, "Volkswagen is, in fact, resisting cooperation by citing German law."

US investigators want e-mails and other communication between VW executives so they can figure out who knew what and when. They also want to know if VW leaders knew of the situation, or if it really was limited to lower level employees as the automaker claims. According to those attorneys general, VW won't hand over the files, citing no less than six defensive shields for refusing to do so: the German Federal Data Protection Act, the German Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, the German Constitutional Court, the European Court of Human Rights, the German Criminal Code. The Federal Data Protection Act, the primary defense, has stringent guidelines about privacy especially when it comes to sharing data outside the European Union. The German authorities aren't having the same problems because they can raid VW's offices, and have.

The states' lead lawyers say as well that VW is slow to hand over the documents it agrees to provide. Without the "maximum transparency" that CEO Matthias Müller promised when he took the position, the states cannot pinpoint the executives responsible, which might hinder the penalties the states can assess. The lack of information would also weaken criminal charges that could be brought by the states and the US Justice Department. With New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman saying, "Our patience with Volkswagen is wearing thin," the states are rattling sabers, pledging to "use any means available to us to conduct a thorough investigation."

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