It all started with a group of five scientists at the University of West Virginia. During live road tests, these scientists discovered that emissions from certain VW diesel engines exceeded limits set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A larger probe by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) corroborated these findings and found that VW had intentionally programmed its diesel engines to reduce nitrogen oxide levels during emissions testing in order to meet US standards. The ensuing scandal, made worse by the fact that the company shirked its responsibility to shareholders and intentionally hid these findings from the public for almost a year, culminated with the collapse in the share price and the resignation of Martin Winterkorn, its CEO and Ferdinand K. Piëch, its Chairman.
More troublingly, the automaker reneged on its previous promise to release the finding of an investigative report surrounding the scandal by law firm Jones Day in April 2016 citing ‘unacceptable risks’ that may ‘jeopardize’ its ongoing negotiations with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), EPA, CARB, and Attorneys General from fifty US states.