Volkswagen executives may have lied about knowledge of Dieselgate emissions cheating prior to recall, internal documents suggest

by Eric Pearson

Executives with Volkswagen AG may have known as early as 2014 about the company’s diesel emissions cheating activities on VW and Audi “clean diesel” models, according to internal memos and emails reported by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. Volkswagen executives have denied having any knowledge of the emissions cheating scandal until the issues with VW’s diesel models were made public in Fall 2015.

According to the documents, former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was warned by a confidant in May 2014 that U.S. environmental regulators had uncovered evidence that the company had installed a “defeat device” on its “TDI Clean Diesel” vehicles. This device was designed to conceal the high emissions levels of VW’s diesel models during emissions testing. However, despite this warning, Volkswagen did not admit that it had installed the defeat device on its diesel-powered models until September 2015, when the company announced that it would recall 11 million VW and Audi diesel models due to the emissions cheating. Winterkorn, who resigned as Volkswagen CEO shortly after news about the Dieselgate scandal was made public, has denied that he had any prior knowledge about the use of a defeat device on VW’s diesel models.

This disclosure that Volkswagen may have known about the emissions cheating on its diesel vehicles earlier than it had previously admitted may subject the company to penalties under U.S. laws that require companies to disclose potential problems that could affect its stock price. The documents also raise the possibility that Volkswagen deliberately misled the EPA and California environmental regulators in the U.S. about the company’s ability to bring VW and Audi diesel vehicles into compliance with U.S. emissions standards.

Volkswagen is currently facing billions in potential fines and penalties in connection with a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department over the emissions cheating scandal. The recent disclosure that VW executives may have known about the emissions cheating long before the company announced that it would recall the diesel models equipped with the defeat device could subject the company to higher fines for violating U.S. environmental laws. The company could also face the prospect of higher settlements with VW and Audi diesel vehicle owners who have filed lawsuits against the German automaker in connection with the Dieselgate scandal. Volkswagen might also face lawsuits from stockholders in the company over the company’s failure to disclose its knowledge of the emissions cheating.

Lawsuits Filed Against Volkswagen Over Dieselgate Emissions Cheating Scandal

Volkswagen is also facing numerous lawsuits filed by consumers who purchased or leased a VW, Audi, or Porsche model involved in the Dieselgate scandal. These lawsuits have alleged that Volkswagen deliberately misled the consumers about the performance and drivability of its diesel-powered vehicles. Owners of one of “clean diesel” models involved in the recall face a significant reduction in the value of their cars, increased difficulty in selling their vehicle, or problems even having it inspected as a result of the emissions cheating scandal.

The vehicles included in the Volkswagen diesel recall include the 2009-2015 Audi A3 TDI, the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, the 2016 Audi A7 Quattro, the 2016 Audi A8, the 2016 Audi A8L, the 2016 Audi Q5, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the 2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI, and the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg.

If you purchased or lease a Volkswagen, Audi, or Porsche model involved in the VW emissions cheating scandal, you may qualify to file a lawsuit. The first step in taking legal action is to secure the services of an attorney with the knowledge and experience in handling class action and product liability litigation to help guide you through the process of filing a case.

The law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson represents hundreds of victims of the VW diesel cheating scandal and has filed lawsuits on behalf of numerous consumers who purchased one of the vehicles involved in the scandal. Firm partner Michael Heygood was recently named to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Volkswagen multidistrict litigation (MDL) that will oversee the early stages of the VW lawsuits being handled in California. Our law firm expects to remain involved in the lawsuits against Volkswagen throughout the litigation process as we work to achieve a fair settlement on behalf of our clients.

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have tried or settled hundreds of cases involving product liability for our clients in recent years. Our lawyers have taken on some of the largest corporation in the world on behalf of our clients, including multinational pharmaceutical companies and some of the world’s largest automakers. We believe that everyone who has been the victim of wrongful corporate actions should be entitled to effective legal representation to ensure that their legal rights our fully protected.

For more information about the lawsuits against VW and to find out whether you may qualify to take legal action, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to receive a free legal consultation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.