Oliver Schmidt: an example that you’re part of the problem, whichever way you look at it…
Former head for Volkswagen’s engineering and environmental office in Michigan, Oliver Schmidt, was given a maximum recommended prison sentence of seven years for his involvement in the VW Emissions Scandal. He was also given a maximum recommended fine of $400,000 (£300,000).
Schmidt was charged and convicted for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and for violating the Clean Air Act. Schmidt wrote to Judge Cox admitting he was given “a script, or talking points” by senior members in the company, inferring he was only following instructions.
Does this vindicate him? We don’t think so…
Judge Cox condemned Schmidt’s actions, saying it “attacks and destroys the very foundation of [the U.S.] economic system”. Schmidt’s last minute appeal to the judges before the sentence gained little sympathy for his ‘regrettable’ position.
Judge Cox gave a damning explanation for the maximum fine and sentence:
“It is in my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States. You saw this as your opportunity to shine… and climb the corporate ladder.”
Schmidt had a meeting with the California environmental office, Alberto Ayala, on 5th August 2015, just before the company publicly admitted to cheating. During that meeting, Ayala noted his concerns over differences in emissions testing, to which Schmidt dismissed these and gave “bogus technical explanations”, – i.e. covering up the fact that defeat devices were used to manipulate testing results to hide the excessive levels of NOx.
Prosecuting, the Justice department had no room for sympathy, calling it a “script of deception” and noted that Schmidt had multiple opportunities to do the right thing and report the cheating.
Whichever way you look at it, he was a part of the problem. He knew right from wrong, and he should have been brave enough to not lie and conspire. He is a part of the organisation who decided to cheat the world, and we think it is right he should pay for his crimes.
We also think that any other executives and seniors involved should also pay for their part as well. The Volkswagen Company is made up of people, and it is the people (who were actively involved and / or knew about what was going on) in that organisation who have cheated the world. Of course, not everyone knew; but those who did are clearly responsible.
Schmidt is the highest-ranking VW executive to be convicted over the scandal in the U.S. and may remain so as most of the senior VW executives are in Germany. German authorities are unlikely to extradite its citizens to the U.S. to stand trial. Schmidt was caught by U.S. law enforcement when he tried to return to Germany after holidaying in Florida.
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