Volkswagen was planning to release the preliminary findings of its internal investigation into the diesel emission scandal this month. But now, the company has scrapped those plans. In a statement, the German automaker cites strong objections from their lawyers and “unacceptable risks” to the company.
But there might be more this than what Volkswagen is saying. Last week, Volkswagen finally reached a deal with the U.S. Government over the emission mess. By releasing the results, it might put Volkswagen in a difficult sport.
“Publishing such a preliminary report would not only endanger the complex and confidential settlement talks [with authorities and plaintiffs], it would also have a negative effect on ongoing investigations as individuals who have yet to be questioned could align their statements with the contents of the report. We must avoid this,” said Volkswagen board director Wolfgang Porsche to reporters in Wolfsburg.
It isn't being helped that the investigation has hit a few bumps in the road. According to Automotive News, the Jones Day law firm - hired by Volkswagen to do the investigation - have so far failed define key points of the scandal. Bloomberg goes on to say that the firm has been confounded by engineers using code words to describe the illegal software and outdated computer systems.
Press Release is on Page 2
Statement by Volkswagen AG regarding the status of the comprehensive investigation in connection with the diesel matter
At the end of September 2015, the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft assigned law firm Jones Day with a comprehensive investigation in connection with the diesel matter. This investigation is already far advanced and is being pursued intensely. For this purpose, approximately 65 million documents were submitted for electronic review, of which more than 10 million were forwarded for review by Volkswagen's lawyers. Around 450 interviews have also been conducted about the diesel matter; dozens of additional interviews are planned. Based on the current assessment, Jones Day expects the investigation to conclude in the fourth quarter of 2016.
After a thorough examination of the legal situation, the Supervisory Board and the Management Board of Volkswagen have nevertheless had to recognize that a disclosure of interim results of the investigation at this point in time would present unacceptable risks for Volkswagen and, therefore, cannot take place now. This decision is based on the assessment of the U.S. law firms retained by Volkswagen (Sullivan & Cromwell and Jones Day), which have both strongly advised against such a disclosure independently of each other.
Volkswagen regrets that it has had to move away from the original plan to disclose interim results of the investigation by the end of April. The reasons lie in the following developments in proceedings involving Volkswagen in connection with the diesel matter in the United States:
Volkswagen's complex negotiations with a large number of parties in the United States (including private plaintiffs and multiple U.S. regulators, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorneys General of each of the 50 states, and, in particular, the U.S. Department of Justice) have entered a decisive phase sooner than anticipated and require Volkswagen to maintain the highest degree of confidentiality. The extensive and confidential nature of these negotiations and Volkswagen's cooperation with the Department of Justice restrict Volkswagen´s ability to comment further on necessarily tentative results of the continuing investigation.
The further disclosure or characterization of interim results, which are currently available, would likely prejudice the rest of the investigation at this time, in particular because individuals who have yet to be questioned could align their statements with the contents of the interim report.
In counsel's view, a disclosure would also significantly impair Volkswagen's cooperation with the Department of Justice and weaken Volkswagen's position in any remaining proceedings.
In counsel's view, such disclosure could also jeopardize the credit that Volkswagen may expect to receive in the event of its full cooperation with the Department of Justice. According to Volkswagen's legal advisers, this could have very substantial negative financial consequences.
lf a full settlement can be achieved with the Department of Justice, the Supervisory Board and the Management Board currently expect that a detailed statement of the facts of this matter will be made public in the U.S. at that time. This is because the settlement of a criminal investigation with the Department of Justice is customarily accompanied by a detailed statement of facts, agreed to by the parties.
Volkswagen explicitly regrets that it is not able to publish interim results by the end of April as initially planned. However, due to the reasons outlined above, the Management Board and the Supervisory Board see themselves forced to refrain from a disclosure in the interest of the company.