The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is reportedly preparing to file criminal charges in the Volkswagon emissions testing scandal.
Citing sources familiar, The Wall Street Journal reports that the DoJ has found evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the German automaker and is in talks with VW lawyers to propose a deal.
The report says that a deal with the DoJ would require a guilty plea from the company and/or a settlement agreement that includes a "large" financial penalty and years of further reporting requirements.
The charges (and settlements) would apply only to VW as a company, and not extend to any individual employees, who could still potentially face individual criminal charges at a later date.
The potential penalties levied on VW would be on top of the $15bn VW will already be paying out in the US to cover buyback costs and settle two of the multiple suits and investigations the Beetle-slinging conglomerate faces for fudging the results of emissions tests in its diesel engines.
The tests were found to have been rigged by VW (the company has placed blame on its software engineers) to use a defeat device that detects when a unit is being tested for emissions compliance. It enables emissions controls that are otherwise not used to limit emissions in real-world driving operation.
Investigators have found similar "cheatware" programs in some Audi and Porsche diesel models. ®