Volkswagen will plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $4.3 billion in fines, in a deal that would resolve a federal criminal investigation into its cheating on vehicle emissions tests, reports the New York Times. The expected guilty plea and the arrest of a Volkswagen executive on conspiracy charges buck a pattern of companies paying their way out of criminal accusations. While companies often face large fines for wrongdoing, it is far less common for them to admit to lawbreaking.
As a result of the deal, Volkswagen could be required to cooperate with investigations into individual company employees. A guilty plea would likely weaken the company’s ability to defend itself against investigations by state attorneys general, and against lawsuits brought by shareholders who accuse Volkswagen of waiting too long to disclose the financial risk of its emissions cheating. Volkswagen is expected to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, customs violations, and obstruction of justice. The people could not talk publicly about the deal because it was not yet final. Many of the 600,000 cars in the United States equipped with the emissions-cheating software were imported from Germany or Mexico.