Former VW Exec Sentenced To 7 Years In Prison Over Role In Dieselgate

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Oliver Schmidt, the former head of Volkswagen’s U.S. regulatory compliance office from 2014 to 2015, was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years in prison for his role in the German automaker’s emissions cheating scandal.

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Facing 11 felonies for various wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government, Schmidt pled guilty in August and faced up to 169 years in prison. Prosecutors said this week they were seeking up to seven years, and on Wednesday, a judge agreed with them, court officials said.

Schmidt’s sentence was handed down by Judge Sean Cox of the U.S. District Court in Detroit. In a press release, the court said Schmidt received a five-year prison sentence for a conspiracy charge and 24 months for a criminal violation of the Clean Air Act. Cox also assessed a $400,000 fine for Schmidt’s role in what’s now enshrined in history as Dieselgate.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the release said, federal prosecutors dropped several wire fraud charges, and Schmidt agreed to be deported to Germany after serving his sentence.

Schmidt, 48, is the highest-ranking VW employee to be convicted as part of the government’s investigation into Dieselgate. In August, VW auto engineer James Liang received a 40 month sentence and a $200,000 fine for his role in the scandal.

An additional six employees face charges from U.S. authorities over Volkswagen’s decision to install software in more than 500,000 diesel cars that were designed to skirt emissions tests. But, to date, five of the individuals remain at large.

Schmidt recently wrote a letter to Judge Cox, claiming he felt “misused” by Volkswagen.

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“A script, or talking points, I was directed to follow for that meeting was approved by management level supervisors at VW, including a high-ranking in-house lawyer, ” Schmidt wrote, according to the New York Times. “Regrettably, I agreed to follow it.”

Schmidt ended up in U.S. custody somewhat by chance. In January, authorities arrested him after he arrived in Florida on vacation from Germany.

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Why he decided to risk arrest by coming to the United States, the Times aptly put it, “remains a mystery.”

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

DISCUSSION

estorilsuprasedan
estorilsuprasedan

While yes, he is an asshole, I find this sentence unnecessarily harsh. I work in Audit, and one of the changes post Enron is examining “tone from the top” - whether or not the implied tone of ethics coming from the C-Level team dictates pressure to commit fraud. Though it does not absolve personal responsibility, it is also not fair to pin a single compliance engineer in prison when the entire tone of doing business was set from the Piech family/shareholders who wanted to see a ton value from their investments. There was pressure to buckle emissions to meet sales, and if this compliance individual goes to jail, then by that logic should everyone at his level in his department, every engineer in the emissions team, and every engineer at Bosch who helped co-develop the software cheat. Though the general public may demand pitch forks and jail time, the complicated truth is that the general tone and culture of Volkswagen is in part what lead to dieselgate, and is really what should change. So yes - he is doing his time for his crime - but I cannot help but feel bad.