SEC Won’t Change Gear in VW Emissions Suit

by: The Knowledge Group

July 22, 2019


The iconic German car manufacturer Volkswagen is again under a legal spotlight, facing a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The agency alleges that Volkswagen issued more than $13 billion in securities and bonds in the U.S., where hundreds of thousands of VW “clean diesel” vehicles far exceeded emissions ceilings.

Volkswagen was caught cheating U.S. pollution tests in 2015, resulting in felony charges and massive fines, and triggering a global backlash that has cost the company billions.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer asked in May why the SEC waited until March 2019 to sue over a vehicle emissions scandal addressed in the criminal law arena two years earlier.

The SEC has claimed the need to deal with extensive settlement talks, foot-dragging by Volkswagen representatives, and some two million pages of the company’s records needing to be sorted before the agency could fairly decide to sue.

Volkswagen software modified vehicle engines’ responses to tests, enabling the levels of emissions to appear far lower than they actually were. Since then, a working paper indicates that auto emissions cheaters (Volkswagen and others) have impacted infants’ and children’s health, as measured by low birth weight and asthma emergency incidents. Should key findings in the paper withstand peer review, the liability for VW and other car companies will reach beyond damage to the climate, and also encompass automotive pollution’s direct health effects.

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