The Volkswagen Group on Friday pleaded guilty to three felony charges relating to its diesel emissions cheating scandal as part of January’s settlement with the Justice Department and Customs and Border Protection regarding any criminal misconduct tied with the scandal.
The charges included conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing justice, and the importation of goods by means of false statements.
The judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, didn’t deliver a sentence, although the Justice Department recommended Cox follow the original terms outlined in VW's settlement. He has deferred the sentencing until April 21 due to the "serious" nature of what has transpired.
In its settlement reached in January, VW agreed to plead guilty to the three felony charges and pay a criminal fine of $2.8 billion. VW also agreed to pay combined penalties of $1.45 billion to settle civil claims under U.S. customs and environmental laws, as well as a further $50 million to the Justice Department to settle additional claims.
This is in addition to VW agreeing to spend up to $25 billion to deal with civil claims from owners, environmental agencies, states and dealers and to make buyback offers of cars fitted with the 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel engines at the heart of the scandal. The engines were discovered in 2015 to be fitted with “defeat device” software used to hide their true emissions from regulators.
Even with the delay in sentencing, VW has still taken a significant step towards resolving its criminal issues. However, it doesn’t end Justice Department investigations into actions taken by individual employees, including that of arrested executive Oliver Schmidt who is due in court on April 18 to face as many as 11 felony charges. Another VW exec, James Liang, previously pleaded guilty to misleading regulators and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.