Volkswagen pleads guilty in U.S. court in diesel emissions scandal

Fri Mar 10, 2017 4:51pm EST
 
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By Nick Carey and David Shepardson

DETROIT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) pleaded guilty on Friday to fraud, obstruction of justice and falsifying statements as part of a $4.3 billion settlement reached with the U.S. Justice Department in January over the automaker's diesel emissions scandal.

It was the first time the company has pleaded guilty to criminal conduct in any court in the world, a company spokesman said, and comes as the automaker strives to put the most expensive ever auto industry scandal behind it.

The September 2015 disclosure that VW intentionally cheated on emissions tests for at least six years led to the ouster of its chief executive, damaged the company's reputation around the world and prompted massive bills.

In total, VW has agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles.

Volkswagen's general counsel Manfred Doess made the plea on its behalf after he said at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit that he was authorized by the company's board of directors to enter a guilty plea.

"Your honor, VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts," Doess told the court.

U.S. District Judge Sean Cox accepted the company's guilty plea to conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction and entry of goods by false statement charges and set an April 21 sentencing date, where he must decide whether to approve the terms of the plea agreement.

Investors in VW stock took the news in stride after the expected guilty plea, sending shares up slightly in Germany to close up 0.3 percent at 143.70 euros.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO - A U.S. flag flutters in the wind above a Volkswagen dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo