Volkswagen’s $18 billion settlement over the emissions fraud it perpetrated against customers the world over is just the beginning of the money it will eventually have to pay out.
Most of the funds will be used toward settling claims with current VW owners. Checks, generally for between $5,000 and $11,000, will be issued to VW owners for their participation in the general settlement. The precise terms and mechanics of the settlement are still being worked out pending final approval by the federal court overseeing the settlement.
As part of the settlement, VW owners will be given the option to have their cars repaired and their emissions systems brought into federal regulations, or to sever ties completely and have the car bought back by the manufacturer. Lessees can also be let out of their leases without penalty.
Weighing heaviest on the minds of company executives, however, is the fact that the settlement left the door open to further action by states and international governments to pursue civil and criminal action against the company. And now, three U.S. states have done exactly that.
Reuters is reporting that three states; Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts, are preparing to file separate lawsuits against Volkswagen. All charge the manufacturer with the same thing: that it intentionally committed multiple acts of fraud against regulators while violating any number of state environmental laws.
As a result, the states are pursuing a variety of actions against Volkswagen, including civil penalties and injunctive relief.
This is not any of these states’ first actions against Volkswagen in the emissions fraud scheme. The same Reuters story reports that all three of them, along with 40 other states, successfully reached what they called a “partial settlement” with VW for $603 million. The story states that “Volkswagen said that settlement was to resolve existing and potential state consumer protection claims.”
The fact that Volkswagen has to explain and differentiate which of its nine-figure settlements was meant to resolve a specific claim speaks volumes as to the depth of the trouble the company finds itself in. Criminal charges at the federal level may also be pending once the United States Justice Department completes its own investigation.
$18 billion is an almost-incomprehensible amount of money to most. For VW, however, it could be just the beginning.