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Volkswagen Fined One Billion Euros By German Prosecutors Over Emissions Cheating (reuters.com) 116

Volkswagen was fined one billion euros ($1.18 billion) over diesel emissions cheating in what amounts to one of the highest ever fines imposed by German authorities against a company, public prosecutors said on Wednesday. From a report: The German fine follows a U.S. plea agreement from January 2017 when VW agreed to pay $4.3 billion to resolve criminal and civil penalties for installing illegal software in diesel engines to cheat strict U.S. anti-pollution tests. "Following thorough examination, Volkswagen AG accepted the fine and it will not lodge an appeal against it. Volkswagen AG, by doing so, admits its responsibility for the diesel crisis and considers this as a further major step toward the latter being overcome," it said in a statement. The fine is the latest blow to Germany's auto industry which cannot seem to catch a break from the diesel emissions crisis. Germany's government on Monday ordered Daimler to recall nearly 240,000 cars fitted with illicit emissions-control devices, part of a total of 774,000 models affected in Europe as a whole.

Volkswagen Fined One Billion Euros By German Prosecutors Over Emissions Cheating

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  • Link takes you to Reuters article "Fox shares pop ahead of expected Comcast bid"
  • Proper link (Score:5, Informative)

    by divide overflow ( 599608 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:07PM (#56779304)
    The proper link is here: https://www.reuters.com/articl... [reuters.com]
    • .....aaaaaand passed on to consumers. All corporate levies/taxes are paid by the consumer.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes.... because consumers have no other place to buy cars. Oh wait.
        Maybe cars are a competitive market and VW will not be able to pass this straight to their customers.
        I take you are American, and as such not really familiar with competitive markets.

  • I don't think this'll cover damages to folks health did to dirty air let alone be more than the profit they made cheating. Until we find them more than the money they made they're gonna keep doing this crap.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think this'll cover damages to folks health did to dirty air let alone be more than the profit they made cheating. Until we find them more than the money they made they're gonna keep doing this crap.

      I find it curious that when individual people do bad things, we tend to go to jail, at least fairly often, but when a company does bad things, seldom anyone goes to jail. There needs to be a point where crimes that hurt a lot of people that are caused by deliberate actions result in the people ultimately in charge going to jail.

      • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @05:21PM (#56779860)
        I think the issue has to do more with shared or diffused responsibility in groups. The larger the group, the less likely anyone is to get in trouble for it because it's more difficult to attribute the harm to any one person's action. It's the same in large religions or political groups when there's some kind of scandal. At best you might get one or two people thrown under the bus, but you're not even guaranteed that much.

        Should you automatically put the CEO in jail if they weren't responsible and had no part in the wrong doing? What if they were the person who noticed something was wrong and blew the whistle on the wrong doing?

        What about the more morally gray cases where the upper management is pushing hard for results and some of the underlings interpret these directives is creative, yet illegal or unethical ways? We can establish that the CEO might have ultimately caused the behavior, but they never asked for something illegal.

        We could further descend the ladder until we get the bottom rung where the CEO has a signed letter in blood telling everyone to kill and rape babies to increase profits where it's pretty clear that they need to go away for a long while. However, the point is that where in there is the line where you know exactly which people need to go to jail and which people don't?

        With an individual crime it's a lot easier for a jury to wrap their head around what happened and there are far fewer conflicting versions of events. Try to put a group on trial, and no one really knows who to trust when all of the fingers start getting pointed and there's always enough plausible deniability or presumption of innocence that it's a lot harder to get a jury to convict. Also, a large organization is going to have a lot of money to spend on lawyers. Much like a celebrity, they can afford the best legal talent so you're more likely to get away with murder, figuratively and likely literally as well.
        • Instead of putting someone in the company in jail you could ban the company from selling anything for 10 years or something like that. Punish what company wants which is money. Companies will think twice before doing something like that. If the company will go bankrupt due to the ban then so be it, they have themselves to blame.
          Jail is a harsh sentence for a person. People can die of old age in jail, they did it to themselves.
          Not being able to earn money is a harsh sentence for a company. Companies can go b

          • Right, people will lose their job. The company could be forced to pay just as normal until they cant any more during the ban.
            That is just how it is. No one said the world was not harsh.

      • Reason is - those companies have the money to by the politicians - people don't have. So comes that people are f*cked and screwed more and more.
        • There are grass-roots lobbying groups that are funded by regular individual citizens. Home School Legal Defense Association is one example. I can't imagine life without it. Actually I don't have to imagine...it would suck.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:38PM (#56779536) Journal
      Dirty air? Despite such cheating on emissions and an increase in car use, the air has gotten a hell of a lot cleaner in the past decades and continues to get cleaner still. You can't just claim damages due to "dirty air", at most you could claim damages for much dirtier the air has gotten due to Volkswagen not quite meeting the Euro-6 norm or whatever it is.

      With that said, a stiff fine is in order. But not like this. €1B to Germany, $4.3B to the US, then maybe another $1B by the state of California, $500M to the city of New York, €1.5B to France, €2B to Mexico, well, you get the picture. It's not in anyone's interest to cripple this company, and I would much rather have seen smaller fines plus some jail time for those responsible.
      • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:59PM (#56779714)

        You can't just claim damages due to "dirty air"

        Of course you can. The air would have been much less polluted if Volkswagen and the others hadn't cheated.

        at most you could claim damages for much dirtier the air has gotten due to Volkswagen not quite meeting the Euro-6 norm or whatever it is.

        There is no "not quite" about it when we are talking about more than an order or magnitude. This is not astronomy.

        It's not in anyone's interest to cripple this company

        It is absolutely in my interest to cripple them. I have zero faith that they will not do the exact same thing the next time they think they can get away with it.

        • by caelst ( 2882403 )
          "It is absolutely in my interest to cripple them. I have zero faith that they will not do the exact same thing the next time they think they can get away with it." So you take a company that is spread across the world supplying much more than just diesel cars, and cripple it.....? I admire your American attitude towards business but it does not work. Why not take a very successful company and work with it to improve on the obvious issues with the auto industry. This is an opportunity to make a change and
          • by shilly ( 142940 )

            Depends on what you think the obvious issues are. To me, the obvious issues are that this company behaved in an exceptionally unethical manner, and both it and other companies in the same industry need a strong disincentive, or they will do the same again.

          • Yeah VW is the largest car company in the world. Too big to fail.

      • It's not in anyone's interest to cripple this company

        Why not? Bankrupt the company. (Or don't if you think the crime wasn't extreme enough. But I have no problems with fines completely wiping a company out.)

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      Fining them won't be enough. In most cases the managers responsible will have moved on to other jobs and cashed their bonuses before the faeces gets ventilated.

      The US has it right in this case. Criminal charges against the people responsible.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That is exactly what Germany is doing. However, unlike they US, they have an actual criminal investigation and fair trials, so it takes a bit longer.

        • by amorsen ( 7485 )

          That is exactly what Germany is doing.

          I would be very interested in a citation for that. A quick Googling didn't turn up anything except US efforts.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Then you must be exceptionally bad at using Google. The domestic criminal investigations against dozens of current and former VW employees has been all over the newspapers for the past two years.

          • by fazig ( 2909523 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @06:01PM (#56780100)

            The bulk of “Dieselgate” lawsuits are being handled by prosecutors in Braunschweig where four separate sets of criminal proceedings are being conducted against current and former managers of VW, headquartered in nearby Wolfsburg.
            Some 39 individuals including Winterkorn are being investigated over suspected emissions fraud, with the former CEO also being probed for suspected market manipulation together with Hans Dieter Poetsch, the group’s former finance chief who is now supervisory board chairman, and Herbert Diess, now group CEO who joined the firm in July 2015 as head of the VW brand.

            Source: https://www.reuters.com/articl... [reuters.com]

            Then we have one of the major German newspapers noting that Winterkorn stands to lose his entire financial existence.
            Source: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wir... [faz.net] (you may need a translator)

    • How much did the average person's probability of having health problems increase due to VW's emissions being higher then advertised?

  • by Aaden42 ( 198257 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:16PM (#56779360) Homepage
    The poor, poor oppressed company. It's awful they're being held accountable to the law like us little people are. So unfair!
  • by CaptnCrud ( 938493 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:25PM (#56779448)

    now is the time to pick up a volkswagon for cheap...

  • ...not the company. Otherwise the price of my spare parts will go up !
    • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @05:02PM (#56779738)

      That is actually an excellent point!

      A suitable punishment would be to take away all government-granted monopolies, since they do not play by the rules of the government. Goodbye Volkswagen patents!

      That would benefit the owners of Volkswagen vehicles, who were defrauded and who have so far not had a penny in compensation (at least in Europe).

    • How does "Volkswagon's profits are being taken away via fines" correspond to "the prices of my spare parts are going up"? I'm going to need some explaination

      • Executive 1: Damn, we're a billion euros in the hole. There goes my profit sharing.
        Executive 2: Yeah. We'll have to make that billion up somewhere.
        Executive 1: Not to mention the money we're going to lose refitting stock, increased governmental scrutiny, blah blah blah.
        Executive 2: Guess we'll need to bump up prices on everything.
        Executive 1: Yup.

    • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @08:47PM (#56780954) Homepage

      You can't fine a company. You can only fine its customers or low level employees using existing corporate laws which protect the share holders.

      The correct thing to do is force the company it issue a billion dollars in new stock and give it to the government. That is the only way to fine the share holders who have a responsibility to ensure the board is above board.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So if a billion dollars shows up on the liabilities side of the balance sheet of a company that won't affect the share price? How exactly are the share holders more culpable than the low level employees or even customers? There is actually a formula for calculating what percentage a of a tax is payed by a company versus it's customers. (For our purposes a fine is equivalent to a tax.) That is, what percentage comes out of profits versus being passed on to customers as higher prices. It depends upon the

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:54PM (#56779676) Journal
    The money will come from the current shareholders of VW.

    The perps are in their mansions, not in jail.

    The perps are not going to pay the fine. There is no clawback provision to get back the bonuses and salaries and incentives they got for achieving the goals by cheating.

    The shareholders should sue the board and ask them to pay the fine without using company funds.

    Board might sue the old office holders and get the money from them.

    But none of that will happen. So next scandal will happen. There is no effective way to punish the Criminal Executive Officers.

  • by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2018 @04:55PM (#56779686) Journal

    The government can return the money as tax deductions next year, or the next one, if need be. What should be done, and curiously enough isn't, is to apply the law and forbid the sales of non emission-compliant cars. Most models sold even today are still non compliant, and sold without anybody saying anything. That makes a fool of the law, and of the consumers.

    Instead they give a fine. Great. If anybody, the regulators should be fined. They simply "trusted" the manufacturers, instead of doing a proper independent road test of the new models. It's obvious that everybody was in the deception, and worse still, they still are.

    • It's obvious that everybody was in the deception, and worse still, they still are.

      All that matters is that fines can be issued to benefit those running the 'broken rules -> fines' system.

    • What should be done, and curiously enough isn't, is to apply the law and forbid the sales of non emission-compliant cars.

      Err did you miss the bit about how the VWs sold now had significantly down rated specs than the same model sold only a few years earlier?

      Instead they give a fine. Great.

      Yeah that's all they did. All of it. Nothing else what so ever.
      Certainly the Germans aren't currently prosecuting several of the managers at the time. /sarcasm
      Oh no wait, I have more sarcasm: Certainly they didn't force the company to spend $2bn on electric car R&D the results of which have already born some fruit. /sarcasm ... one more for good measure: Certainly ther

  • Because it's not just Volkwagen who put software cheats into their car computers but Mercedes Benz and BMW too. Those latter two must have made sure their legislators were well bought off.
  • Gotta love environmental regulations which serve to enable largish fines like this* but.... how does this help the citizens, whose health is nominally protected by this legislation?

    (*) equivalent to the penalty for downloading close to a hundred mp3s!!, but I digress...---^

  • They should be forced to essentially 'buy' back ALL of the effected cars.

    Not at current value, but at the original value of the vehicle at the day of sale.

    Maybe a heavy loss of having to buy back all of those vehicles, and and then not being able to sell them ever, would be enough of a punishment.

  • There is only one way that the German auto industry will ever get a break from diesel scandals, and that is to stop making them. VW at least appears to be on the path to doing just that; the company is aggressively pushing forward with EV development and sales.

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