DETROIT â The criminal case against Volkswagen for its decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests ended Friday with a scolding, an apology and $4.3 billion in penalties.
The sentence, affirmed at a court hearing, had been recommended by federal prosecutors in January as part of a deal in which the German automaker agreed to plead guilty to three felony charges for illegally importing nearly 600,000 vehicles equipped with devices to circumvent emissions standards.
The conclusion of the criminal case, 19 months after the vast cheating operation was first revealed, was a milestone in Volkswagenâs recovery from a scandal that badly damaged its reputation and sales. This week it delivered an encouraging quarterly report, and the company has even been given permission to sell â with modifications â the diesel cars at the center of the case.
But the hearing in Federal District Court in Michigan was a reminder of the cloud under which Volkswagen remained.
The judge, Sean Cox, chastised the automaker for the âcorporate greedâ that led to its âdeliberate and massive fraudâ against consumers and regulators.
And while seven Volkswagen executives have been criminally charged for their roles in the scandal, the judge said more blame should be put on the companyâs top management and its supervisory board.
âItâs not the management at VW, the ones who get paid big salaries and high bonuses, itâs the little guy,â he said. âThe person who has really been hurt is the man or woman who labors at Volkswagen to make a car.â
Volkswagenâs general counsel, Manfred DÃ¶ss, said the company felt remorse for its wrongdoing and was committed to changing its corporate culture and restoring its battered reputation.
âWe let people down, and for that we are deeply sorry,â he said.
The settlement of the criminal case brings the financial toll on Volkswagen to more than $20 billion in fines, penalties and other legal settlements, which include lawsuits brought by consumers who purchased cars that emitted illegal levels of harmful pollutants.
Volkswagen will also be on probation for three years and will be supervised by an independent monitor who will…