Former Volkswagen US employee alleges shredding of evidence | News | DW | 14.03.2016
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Former Volkswagen US employee alleges shredding of evidence

A former Volkswagen employee in the US has accused the company of deleting documents and obstructing justice in the ongoing diesel emissions investigations. He claims he was fired for refusing to destroy evidence.

Last week, lawyers for former Volkswagen (VW) employee Daniel Donovan filed a lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan, claiming that he was fired in December "because of his refusal to participate in a course of action" that would destroy evidence and obstruct justice.

The German carmaker has admitted that it programmed about 600,000 diesel-powered cars in the US with software that allowed the vehicles to emit up to 40 times the legally allowable amount of pollution in real-world driving.

According to Donovan's lawsuit, the destruction of evidence continued for three days after the September 18 allegations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and despite a hold order from the US Justice Department.

VW Skandal Environmental Protection Agency USA

The US Environmental Protection Agency alleges that VW diesel cars emit as much as 40 times the allowable amount of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems.

Obstruction of justice by destroying evidence is a criminal offense that can have serious consequences for companies.

Part of the larger case?

It is not clear whether Donovan has been assisting US investigators in their probe. But VW said Monday that Donovan's termination from the company was not related to the diesel emissions issue.

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in a statement that the "circumstances of Mr Donovan's departure were unrelated to the diesel emissions issue. We believe his claim of wrongful termination is without merit."

Institutional investors file suit

On Monday in Germany, lawyers for 278 institutional investors in Volkswagen filed a multi-billion euro suit against the carmaker.

The lawsuit for damages of 3.256 billion euro ($3.61 billion), was filed at a regional court in Braunschweig in VW's home state of Lower Saxony claiming VW had neglected its duty to the capital markets for the period from June 2008 to September 18, 2015.

"Due to the fact that - according to our information and experience - Volkswagen AG persistently denies any settlement negotiations and also refuses to waive the statute of limitation defense until now, it was necessary to file this first multi-billion euro lawsuit," lawyer Andreas Tilp said in a statement. Last October Tilp filed a lawsuit on behalf of retail investors.

Volkswagen has repeatedly said that it complied with all disclosure requirements. A spokesman for VW said the carmaker could not comment because it had not been sent the suit.

VW's US deadline

A US judge set a March 24 deadline for VW to state whether it has found an emissions fix for 600,000 diesel vehicles that is acceptable to US regulators. This comes as the carmaker continued talks with the Justice Department, EPA and California Air Resource Board in recent weeks. It is unclear if VW will be able to find an acceptable solution.

VW faces the potential for more than $20 billion in fines from the US government for environmental violations, as well as hundreds of class-action lawsuits from its customers.

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Volkswagen's US boss steps down

The scandal cost Volkswagen's former CEO in Germany, Martin Winterkorn, his job last September when he resigned. Last week VW's US boss Michael Horn resigned.

VW also faces more than 500 lawsuits from US owners and is the subject of similar investigations on emissions in other countries.

jar/jm (AP, Reuters)

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