Civil lawsuits filed in New York, Maryland and Massachusetts allege that top Volkswagen executives, including ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn, covered up evidence related to its massive Dieselgate scandal, reports Reuters. As a result, Volkswagen could be fined hundreds of millions of dollars or more.
The nearly identical lawsuits allege that Volkswagen had been cheating on diesel emissions tests for years, however, evidence related to the cheat was destroyed despite Volkswagen being ordered order not to do so. Reuters writes:
The suits said at least eight employees in VW’s engineering department deleted or removed incriminating data in August 2015 after a senior attorney advised them of an impending order not to destroy documents. The New York suit stated that “some but not all of the data has been recovered.”
The states’ lawsuits cite internal documents from as far back as 2007 that demonstrate over a decade’s worth of efforts to deceive regulatory bodies in the United States and Europe. They charge dozens of Volkswagen employees with “unlawful conduct,” alleging that they knew there was a workaround to make non-compliant diesel engines appear fine in emissions tests.
New York’s lawsuit specifically calls out Winterkorn and former global head of marketing Christian Klingler as knowing of the defeat devices by spring 2014, but doing nothing to prevent the Volkswagen Group companies from deceiving regulatory agencies.
Current CEO Matthias Mueller, however, was not among those listed in the state lawsuits as part of the cover-up. The story explains:
The New York suit stated that current CEO Matthias Mueller, then head of project management at Audi, and Winterkorn became aware in July 2006 of the effect of undersized urea tanks on the ability to comply with emissions standards. The suit said VW opted to install defeat software instead of larger tanks to save money.
The suits did not state Mueller was aware of the cheating.
These lawsuits came after a nine-month investigation that pored through 1.1 million documents related to the Dieselgate scandal.
Meanwhile, American customers who bought the affected cars are still waiting on a fix despite the company reaching a $14.7 billion settlement with federal regulators.
This is not the first time Volkswagen has been accused of hiding information from investigators. One ex-employee filed a lawsuit alleging that he was fired for refusing to purge documents related to the Dieselgate investigation. Winterkorn is under investigation in Germany for allegedly hiding the cheat from the public.