Duped in Volkswagen case, exec says
A Volkswagen executive accused of helping cover up the carmaker’s emissions fraud is arguing that he was a minor player misled by company lawyers and information technology specialists.
The defense offered by Oliver Schmidt, which was laid out in court documents filed late Friday, could foreshadow his fellow defendants’ strategies as the emissions scandal enters a new phase focused on criminal prosecution.
Other Volkswagen employees may argue that they were trapped in a vast corporate conspiracy, portraying themselves, like Schmidt, as more victim than perpetrator. Such an approach could implicitly shift attention to top managers as Volkswagen tries to rebuild its reputation, stop a decline in its European market share and cope with technological shifts in the auto industry.
Volkswagen pleaded guilty in January to criminal charges in the United States related to the emissions cheating. Schmidt is one of six current or former Volkswagen employees indicted in the United States, and the only one in custody; the others are in Germany.
U.S. federal prosecutors have accused Schmidt, a 48-year-old German, of knowingly providing false information to U.S. regulators after they became suspicious about the emissions of Volkswagen diesel vehicles in early 2014.