Photographer: Miles Willis/Bloomberg

VW’s Liaison to U.S. Regulators Is Preparing Guilty Plea

  • Clean Air Act, conspiracy counts seen against German national
  • Schmidt would be most senior VW executive to plead guilty

A Volkswagen AG compliance executive charged in the company’s emissions-cheating scandal is preparing to plead guilty.

U.S. prosecutors and lawyers for Oliver Schmidt, a German national, told U.S. District Judge Sean Cox in Detroit that Schmidt had decided to plead guilty, the court said Tuesday. Bloomberg News reported earlier that Schmidt was preparing to plead guilty, citing people familiar with the matter.

Oliver Schmidt

Source: Broward Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images

Schmidt’s plea hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4. He is expected to admit to charges of conspiracy and violating the Clean Air Act in federal court in Detroit, one of the people said.

Schmidt, who was VW’s liaison to U.S. regulators, would be the most senior VW executive to plead guilty as part of the U.S. investigations into Volkswagen’s use of a device designed to cheat U.S. emissions testing on its diesel automobiles. The company, which pleaded guilty in a U.S. criminal probe in the matter, has already run up a tab of $24 billion to settle U.S. civil and criminal matters.

Schmidt’s move would reverse his plea of not guilty, entered in February after his arrest while on vacation in Florida. Guilty pleas often include an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors to provide evidence. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Schmidt is still employed by the company. He has been in custody since his arrest and was denied bail.

David Massey, a lawyer for Schmidt, didn’t respond to a phone message seeking comment. 

The Justice Department continues to pursue criminal charges against individuals. In September, Volkswagen engineer James Liang pleaded guilty for his role in implementing software that would cheat U.S. emissions tests by lowering emissions when software detected a car was in a testing scenario. This month, U.S. prosecutors charged a former manager in VW’s Audi AG unit who had been arrested in Germany. The manager, Giovanni Pamio, an Italian national, was charged with fraud.

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