German Prosecutors Seeking Big Money from Volkswagen Over Dieselgate

“In America, people think we are going easy on Volkswagen,” prosecutor says. “This should prove them wrong.”

byWill Sabel Courtney| PUBLISHED Jul 12, 2016 8:37 PM
German Prosecutors Seeking Big Money from Volkswagen Over Dieselgate

VW may not get off quite as easily as it hoped in its home country. According to The Wall Street JournalGerman prosecutors intend to seek punitive damages against Volkswagen as a result of the carmaker's emissions cheating scandal colloquially known as Dieselgate.

Prosecutors in the city of Brunswick, Germany, have reportedly informed Volkswagen they intend to seek damages—potentially taking as much money from VW as the carmaker made in profit from the sale of the 11 million afflicted vehicles sold across the world, according to Klaus Wiehe, the head prosecutor in the matter.

“In America, people think we are going easy on Volkswagen. This should prove them wrong," Wiehe told WSJ. “The intention is to ensure that Volkswagen does not profit from the diesel manipulation."

The attempt to claim punitive damages comes in addition to the four separate Dieselgate-related criminal investigations currently under way against VW in Germany. German authorities are looking into current and former Volkswagen employees, including former chief executive Martin Winterkorn, on charges ranging from tax evasion to destruction of evidence to the obvious conspiracy to cheat on government emissions tests.

The news comes roughly two weeks after Volkswagen reached a $15 billion settlement with the U.S. government over the Dieselgate scandal. That settlement, which provides American owners of diesel VWs with up to $10,000 in cash, would not give VW any leeway in dealing with German authorities, Wiehe said.

“When calculating the penalties we can’t take into consideration what Volkswagen has had to pay in other countries,” the German prosecutor said.

It also comes less than a week after German government officials said VW would not be forced to provide financial compensation as part of its repair efforts. That effort, however, concerned direct financial payouts to owners of the afflicted vehicles, which could be considered compensatory damages; the Brunswick prosecution is an attempt to claim punitive damages, which are often applied as a way to penalize the defendant for particularly egregious misbehavior.