Emissions scam: VW to pay $157 mn to 10 US states

Volkswagen took another step on Thursday to move past its emissions-cheating scandal by agreeing to pay $157 million to 10 states to settle environmental lawsuits.

The agreement is the latest move by the German automaker to resolve the legal fallout of its decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests in the United States and elsewhere, The New York Times reports.

Volkswagen has already agreed to pay more than $20 billion in federal criminal and civil penalties and other legal settlements. Those include settlements in lawsuits brought by consumers related to its sale of about 600,000 cars equipped with devices that illegally circumvented emissions rules.

In addition, the company pleaded guilty in January to three felony charges brought by the Justice Department, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act.

Federal prosecutors have also brought criminal charges against six Volkswagen executives for their roles in the scandal. One of the officials, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested in Florida on 7 January and is being held without bond (bail) pending trial.

The automaker is now trying to clear its remaining legal liabilities and to continue the long process of restoring its reputation and rebuilding sales, which have fallen sharply since the Environmental Protection Agency first accused the company of wrongdoing in 2015.

The latest settlement will be divided among the 10 states that brought lawsuits related to the diesel deception: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

''The agreement avoids further prolonged and costly litigation as Volkswagen continues to earn back the trust of its customers, regulators and the public,'' the company said in a statement.

The settlement is the first time the states involved have successfully sued an automaker for violations of state rather than federal emissions laws, according to the Eric T Schneiderman, New York's attorney general.

''Today's settlement means we have now held them to full account,'' Schneiderman said.

He said that New York was receiving about $32 million as its portion of the agreement, meaning Volkswagen paid about $1,250 in penalties for each vehicle it sold in the state that was equipped with a device to defeat emissions tests.

The agreement also calls for the company to increase the number of zero-emission, all-electric vehicles sold in the states from one to three models by 2020. That portion of the deal mirrors an earlier settlement with California regulators.

While Volkswagen still faces potential legal actions in Europe and elsewhere, the company is moving forward in its efforts to resume selling diesel-powered cars in the United States.

This week, the company received approval from the EPA to sell some 2015-model diesel cars that have been outfitted with new emissions software.

Volkswagen had been prohibited from selling diesel vehicles until regulators had approved a remedy for the defeat.

The company said about 67,000 diesel vehicles had received updated software as part of the overall emissions repair approved by federal and state regulators.