While it wasn’t quite on par with the drama of a mob trail, the criminal case of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal possesses a lot of similarities. A break in the case, police raids, a powerful family, an unwillingness to cooperate with authorities, and an informant that made it all possible. But just who was the Henry Hill to Volkswagen’s Lucchese crime family?
According to a new book on the subject, written by New York Times reporter Jack Ewing, VW’s Engineering and Environmental Office head Stuart Johnson was the primary contact for the United States’ regulatory agencies. Johnson was on the front lines of the scandal and was among the first managers the EPA publicly reached out to in September of 2015, but it seems that may have been a ploy not to blow his cover — he had already spoken to the California Air Resources Board a month earlier.
“You get the feeling from reading the documents that Johnson always felt queasy about the whole situation,” Ewing told Automotive News in an interview.
In the book, CARB deputy executive director Alberto Ayala confirms Johnson as the first person to reveal to the regulator the existence of VW’s “defeat device” software. Volkswagen and the Air Resources Board had scheduled a conference for August 21st of that year, though the two men had met several days prior. At the time, Johnson made clear that his disclosure was in direct violation of orders he had been given by his superiors.
The indictment of six Volkswagen executives only refers to Johnson as “Cooperating Witness 1” and states that he “has agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation in exchange for an agreement that the government will not prosecute CW1 in the United States.” There was also a second witness, unnamed in both the court documents and Ewing’s book.
Johnson, an American citizen working out of the automaker’s Auburn Hills office, was heavily involved in attempting to certify the rigged diesel vehicles. But, as dictated by the terms of his court agreement, he has not been charged with any criminal activity. However, several of his VW colleagues have not been so fortunate.