Volkswagen began destroying evidence and obstructing investigations when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the car maker had equipped its diesel-powered vehicles with an emissions cheat, a former employee alleges in a whistleblower lawsuit.
Daniel Donovan, who was a technology employee in VW’s general counsel offices in Michigan, claims the company wrongfully terminated him on Dec. 6, 2015, after he refused to participate in destroying potentially incriminating documents and expressing his concerns to his supervisor. Mr. Donovan was responsible for electronic information management in VW injury and product liability cases.
According to his lawsuit, VW destroyed documents over the course of three days in September despite a hold order from the U.S. Department of Justice barring it from taking such actions.
VW has since admitted it programmed about 600,000 of its diesel-powered cars in the U.S. to operate without emissions except when they were being tested, at which time the vehicle would recognize the testing patterns and turn emissions controls on.
The emissions cheat allowed VW vehicles to spew as much as 40 times the allowable amount of nitrogen oxide, which contributes to urban smog and can cause respiratory problems. The German car manufacturer is now under a federal investigation that could likely result in criminal charges and record penalties. The company also faces a looming March 24 deadline to develop a reasonable repair for the vehicles, which it has so far failed to do.
The lawsuit, filed March 8 in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Mich., alleges VW suspected Mr. Donovan would report the record deletions and obstruction to the EPA, the FBI, and the Justice Department.
VW maintains that Mr. Donovan’s claims of whistleblower retaliation are without merit.
Source: Associated Press