Facing charges, Volkswagen agrees to pay $4.3 billion in emissions cheating scandal

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FILE PHOTO - A U.S. flag flutters in the wind above a Volkswagen dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo - RTX2YFQS

A flag flutters in the wind above a Volkswagen dealership in Carlsbad, California. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Volkswagen has agreed to a plea bargain and $4.3 billion in fines as a result of the company’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy announced Tuesday that the German automaker would plead guilty to felony charges.

The agreement will require the company to pay a $2.8 billion criminal penalty and a separate $1.5 billion civil claims penalty. Additionally, Volkswagen will be required to cooperate with the ongoing investigation and retain an independent monitor to oversee its ethics and compliance program.

The Justice Department had accused the company of trying to sell approximately 600,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. by using a defeat device to cheat on emissions tests and said Volkswagen’s actions resulted in harmful air pollution of up to 40 times more than the legal federal limit.

“For years, VW advertised its vehicles as complying with federal anti-pollution measures,” Lynch said. “But in fact, hundreds of thousands of cars that VW sold in the United States were pumping illegal levels of nitrogen oxides into our atmosphere.”

“What’s more,” said Lynch, “these vehicles were equipped with software that masked the true amount of pollutants the cars released, thwarting regulators during environmental testing.”

Six Volkswagen executives and employees have been indicted in connection with the case. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, Oliver Schmidt and Jurgen Peter have all been indicted on charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, violations of the Clean Air Act and wire fraud.

Volkswagen’s agreement with the DOJ is separate from past settlements that required the company to spend more than $15 billion to mitigate pollution and compensate car dealers and consumers.

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