Monday 17/06/2019 - 03:51 am

Judge approves $15B Volkswagen settlement

2016.10.26 06:14

A federal judge on Tuesday approved one of the largest consumer settlements in U.S. history, a nearly $15 billion U.S. deal concerning Volkswagen Groups diesel car emissions scandal.

The settlement sets in motion a massive vehicle buyback program and environmental remediation efforts.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco approved the sweeping agreement between consumers, the government, California regulators and the German automaker in a written ruling a week after signaling he was likely to sign off. He said the agreement is "fair, reasonable and adequate."

The settlement comes about a year after Volkswagen admitted that it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to dodge emissions standards.

The company is still facing criminal investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors. The U.S. probe could lead to additional financial penalties and criminal indictments.

About 475,000 Volkswagen owners in the U.S. can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation, if a repair becomes available. VW will begin administering the settlement immediately, having already devoted several hundred employees to handling the process.

"The priority was to get the polluting cars off the road as soon as possible. The settlement does that," Breyer said in his ruling, adding that even "under heightened scrutiny" the deal is laudable.

Buybacks range in value from $12,475 to $44,176, including restitution payments, and vary based on mileage. People who opt for a fix approved by the Environmental Protection Agency will receive payouts ranging from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on the book value of their car.

Volkswagen will also pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean-emissions infrastructure.

Deal backers include a class action group of consumers, the EPA, the California Air Resources Board and the Federal Trade Commission, which assailed VW over the companys "false" advertisements marketing its smog-spewing diesels as "clean diesel."

EPA and the California board took action after a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University exposed differences in the emissions performance of the vehicles.

Approval marks an "important milestone in our journey to making things right in the United States, and we appreciate the efforts of all parties involved in this process," VW U.S. CEO Hinrich J. Woebcken said in a statement. "Volkswagen is committed to ensuring that the program is now carried out as seamlessly as possible for our affected customers and has devoted significant resources and personnel to making their experience a positive one."

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