IAV GmbH (IAV), a German company that engineers and designs automotive systems, has agreed to plead guilty to one criminal felony count and pay a $35 million criminal fine as a result of the company’s role in a long-running scheme for Volkswagen AG (VW) to sell diesel vehicles in the United States by using a defeat device to cheat on U.S. vehicle emissions tests required by federal law.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater of FBI’s Detroit Division made the announcement.
IAV is charged with and has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and VW’s U.S. customers and to violate the Clean Air Act by misleading the EPA and U.S. customers about whether certain VW- and Audi-branded diesel vehicles complied with U.S. vehicle emissions standards. IAV and its co-conspirators knew the vehicles did not meet U.S. emissions standards, worked collaboratively to design, test, and implement cheating software to cheat the U.S. testing process, and IAV was aware the VW concealed material facts about its cheating from federal and state regulators and U.S. customers. Under the terms of the plea agreement, which must be accepted by the court, IAV will plead guilty to this crime, will serve probation for two years, will be under an independent corporate compliance monitor who will oversee the company for two years, and will fully cooperate in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation and prosecution of individuals responsible for these crimes. Pursuant to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, IAV’s $35 million fine was set according to the company’s inability to pay a higher fine amount without jeopardizing its continued viability. IAV is scheduled to appear for a change of plea hearing before the Honorable Sean F. Cox of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Jan. 18, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.
“Today’s guilty plea shows that this scheme to evade automotive emissions tests and cheat the American public and the U.S. government extended well beyond Volkswagen,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “Our investigation into emissions cheating is ongoing and we will follow the evidence wherever it leads.”
“By helping VW cheat on U.S. emissions tests in violation of the Clean Air Act, IAV put its corporate success over public health and unfairly disadvantaged its competitors,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Williams. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that companies like IAV play fair and that all Americans can enjoy the protections of our nation’s environmental laws.”
“IAV participated in Volkswagen’s deception of American regulators and fraud on American consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “As this guilty plea demonstrates, our office will continue to aggressively prosecute corporate criminals, even when they work at some of the world’s largest, most prominent companies.”
“IAV designed the software that allowed VW to cheat U.S. air emissions standards,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “EPA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate actions like this that put profit above public health and environmental protection.”
“Americans rightly expect corporations to operate honestly,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Slater. “This case sends a clear message that the FBI and its partners will hold corporations accountable when they defraud consumers and violate federal laws.”
The guilty plea of IAV represents the most recent charges in an ongoing investigation by U.S. criminal authorities into unprecedented emissions cheating by VW. In March 2017, VW pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it deceived U.S. regulatory agencies, including the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, by installing defeat devices in diesel vehicles emissions control systems that were designed to cheat emissions tests. As part of its plea agreement with the Department, VW paid a criminal fine of $2.8 billion and agreed to an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years. Eight individuals were previously indicted in connection with this matter, two of whom have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. The other six charged defendants are believed to reside in Germany.
According to the statement of facts that will be filed with the court in IAV’s case, in 2006, VW engineers began to design a new diesel engine to meet stricter U.S. emissions standards that would take effect by model year 2007. This new engine would be the cornerstone of a new project to sell diesel vehicles in the United States that would be marketed to buyers as “clean diesel.” When the co-conspirators realized that they could not design a diesel engine that would both meet the stricter standards for nitrogen oxides (Nox) and attract sufficient customer demand in the U.S. market, they decided they would use a software function to cheat the U.S. emissions tests.
VW delegated certain tasks associated with designing its new “Gen 1” diesel engine to IAV, including parts of software development, diesel development and exhaust after-treatment. In November 2006, a VW employee requested that an IAV employee assist in the design of defeat device software for use in the diesel engine. The IAV employee agreed to do so and prepared documentation for a software design change to recognize whether a vehicle was undergoing standard U.S. emissions testing on a dynamometer or it was being driven on the road under normal driving conditions. If the software detected that the vehicle was not being tested, the vehicle’s emissions control systems were reduced substantially, causing the vehicle to emit substantially higher NOx, sometimes 35 times higher than U.S. standards.
By at least 2008, an IAV manager knew the purpose of the defeat device software, instructed IAV employees to continue working on the project and directed IAV employees to route VW’s requests regarding the defeat device software through him; the manager was involved in coordinating IAV’s continued work on it.
Starting with the first model year (2009) of VW’s new “clean diesel” Gen 1 engine, through model year 2014, IAV and its co-conspirators caused defeat device software to be installed on all of the approximately 335,000 Gen 1 vehicles that VW sold in the United States.
This case was investigated by the FBI and EPA-Criminal Investigation Division. The prosecution and corporate investigation are being handled by Trial Attorneys Philip Trout, Mark Cipolletti and Gary Winters of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section; Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Blackwell of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section; and White Collar Crime Unit Chief John K. Neal of the Eastern District of Michigan. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also assisted in the case. The Justice Department also extends its thanks to the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Braunschweig, Germany.