Newspaper article International New York Times

VW Accused of Destroying Information on Emissions

Newspaper article International New York Times

VW Accused of Destroying Information on Emissions

Article excerpt

A fired Volkswagen employee in Michigan contends that employees erased electronic files as U.S. officials were investigating its emissions cheating.

A former Volkswagen employee has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in Michigan, asserting that co-workers illegally deleted electronic data shortly after the United States government accused the carmaker of cheating on emissions tests.

Daniel Donovan, who according to the lawsuit worked as an information manager in an Auburn Hills, Mich., office overseen by Volkswagen's in-house lawyer, says he was fired in December because his superiors believed that he was about to report the company to the American authorities for obstruction of justice.

In addition to wrongful dismissal, the lawsuit filed last week in Oakland County Circuit Court in Michigan accuses Volkswagen of violating the state's whistle-blower protection law.

Volkswagen of America said in a statement on Monday that the claim of wrongful dismissal was "without merit." It added: "The circumstances of Mr. Donovan's departure were unrelated to the diesel emissions issue."

The lawsuit could be a blow to Volkswagen's credibility during difficult settlement negotiations with the authorities in Washington.

Volkswagen, facing steep declines in American sales, is in talks with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency about what penalties it must pay for equipping diesel vehicles with software designed to circumvent emissions tests.

The company is also trying reach agreement on how to fix almost 600,000 diesel vehicles in the United States that are still on the road and using the illegal software to emit tailpipe pollutants at much higher levels than allowed under American air-quality rules.

Charles R. Breyer, a federal judge in San Francisco overseeing the Department of Justice case against Volkswagen as well as civil suits filed by thousands of diesel-car owners, has told the company to present a plan on March 24. …

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