By on August 4, 2017

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Oliver Schmidt, a German national and Volkswagen’s former emissions compliance manager in the United States, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Detroit for his role in the massive diesel emissions scandal. However, he didn’t cop to the complete list of charges.

Instead of the 11 felonies and 169 years of possible prison time he was initially charged with, Schmidt is down to just a couple — conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violating the Clean Air Act. This makes him eligible for a maximum of seven years behind bars or, more likely, no jail time at all. 

As part of his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop most of the counts against Schmidt. He has also consented to be deported at the end of his prison term, assuming there is one. Sentencing is scheduled to take place on December 6th and will likely be accompanied by a fine between $40,000 and $400,000, whether or not he goes to jail.

“Schmidt participated in a fraudulent VW scam that prioritized corporate sales at the expense of the honesty of emissions tests and trust of the American purchasers,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean Williams told Reuters. “Schmidt, along with each and every official involved in this emissions scandal, will be held fully accountable for their actions by the Department of Justice as this investigation continues.”

Considering most of the guilty parties can’t be extradited from Germany, the term “fully accountable” is likely highly contextual. Schmidt’s possible punishment is far less severe than the initial charges indicated. But, let’s face it, 169 years in prison is a little severe for someone engaged in corporate conspiracy.

Prosecutors previously admitted to wanting to “make an example” of the former executive, in hopes that automakers attempting to skirt emissions regulations would clean up their collective act.

Like Schmidt, James Liang, another VW employee who pleaded guilty to misleading regulators, is cooperating with prosecutors and will be sentenced on August 25th.

The automaker, having already paid billions in fines, issued its standard statement on the subject after the guilty plea was announced: “Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals. It would not be appropriate to comment on any ongoing investigations or to discuss personnel matters.”

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8 Comments on “VW Executive Pleads Guilty to Lesser Charges in Emissions Cheating Case...”


  • avatar
    zip89123

    The witch hunt continues. VW emissions killed how many American’s? Hopefully Trump pardons Schmidt.

    • 0 avatar
      JeepWranglerApexEdition

      He broke the law, admitted to it, and plead guilty. Why is it you think crimes committed by executives are excusable? Did we Americans learn nothing from 2007-2009?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “The witch hunt continues.”

      A witch hunt where they drop something like 90% of the charges and resulting penalties for a guilty plea?

      “VW emissions killed how many American’s?”

      According to this, about 60.
      http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/mobileart.asp?articlekey=191517

      Besides, with what he’s looking at for sentencing (very light), he certainly isn’t being held accountable for mass murder. And no one suggested he should be. They got what they wanted. An admission of guilt.

      Somewhat unrelated as these aren’t Americans, so not within the scope of this government, however here is a study by MIT of the impact of VW’s excess emissions in Europe (I found on Google).

      http://news.mit.edu/2017/volkswagen-emissions-premature-deaths-europe-0303

  • avatar
    OldGMGuy

    There will be zero changes in corporate behavior if this is the response from the legal system.

    This result shows that the US is unwilling to make executives of companies responsible for their actions.

    Fines don’t hurt executives, they still get their bonuses and perks. Fines hurt the line worker who had nothing to do with this. The line worker loses her job, has to do more work, etc. because the company is recovering the losses resulting from the legal settlements.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    “Considering most of the guilty parties can’t be extradited from Germany, the term “fully accountable” is likely highly contextual. Schmidt’s possible punishment is far less severe than the initial charges indicated. But, let’s face it, 169 years in prison is a little severe for someone engaged in corporate conspiracy.

    Prosecutors previously admitted to wanting to “make an example” of the former executive, in hopes that automakers attempting to skirt emissions regulations would clean up their collective act.”

    If 169 years is too severe, then why do we keep the death penalty around? Isn’t it to “make an example” and deter criminals? If he doesn’t serve at least a year, the legal system has become toothless against corporate power.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Isn’t this the dude that got nailed on a Miami layover after a hop from Cuba? (After VeeDub warned their executives not to leave their country?!)

    Das Shtoopidity ist shtrong in dis von, ja?

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