Last week a VW engineer, James Liang, was sentenced to 40 months in jail and given a $200,000 fine. The Detroit judge said that Mr. Liang and other VW executives and employees were responsible for a “massive and stunning fraud” that violated the trust that consumers need to have in goods and services purchased from corporations. The NY Times [*] reported the judge saying:
“This is a very serious and troubling crime against our economic system. Without that trust in corporate America, the economy can’t function.”
The judge said Mr. Liang had been “too loyal” to VW, and unwilling to expose its deceptive practices or walk away from his $350,000-a-year job.
VW, which has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, as well as customs violations and obstruction of justice, has agreed to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties. This is part of a $22 billion in settlements and fines that VW is paying as a result of its cheating – although UK consumers are not getting a cent of this.
Six other Volkswagen executives have been indicted in the US case, as well as one employee of Audi. One executives, Oliver Schmidt, the former head of Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering centre in Michigan, has been held without bail since his arrest in January 2017 . Earlier this month, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government and violating the Clean Air Act.
Note that will you: "violating the clear air act". Does the UK even have a clean air act? If so, has VW been accused of violating it? You know the answer. The contrast between the US and UK governments could not be clearer. In the US, the Department Justice threw the book at VW; in the UK, the government has been dragged repeated to the Courts by a charity [Client Earth] in order to get it to enforce its own air quality legislation. Why are we not much more angry about this?