Sunday, June 19, 2005
Many cases are resolved by the government civilly. In some cases it is because the element needed to proceed criminally is not present. That is the government may not have acted willfully. It is possible in some cases that Congress only permitted civil penalties, as opposed to criminal sanctions. In other cases it is because a satisfactory resolution is reached, that is the government is willing to accept a civil settlement as opposed to proceeding criminally.
This past week a civil resolution was reached on an environment case between the government and Volkswagon. In a press release of DOJ it is reported that
"The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a Clean Air Act settlement with Volkswagen of America, Inc. Under the agreement, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Volkswagen will pay $1.1 million to resolve its failure to promptly notify and correct a defective oxygen sensor affecting at least 326,000 of their 1999, 2000 and 2001 Golfs, Jettas, and New Beetles. This is the largest civil penalty to date for this type of violation."
Civil penalties of this nature are not automatic. As noted in the press release:
"In addition to paying the civil penalty, pursuant to the consent decree lodged today, Volkswagen will also improve its emissions defect investigation and reporting system to ensure future compliance.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval"