Volkswagen Group has scrapped plans to release preliminary findings of its investigation into the diesel scandal, citing strong objections from its lawyers and “unacceptable risks” to the company.
The findings were expected to be released this week, seven months after VW was caught red-handed rigging diesel emissions in 11 million cars worldwide.
The company’s investigators continue to hunt for the “small group of engineers” believed responsible, but it’s unclear whether progress has been made finding those culpable, with “dozens” of interviews still planned.
And now the full report — expected to be concluded in the fourth quarter — may not even shed much light on the matter since the issue of guilt could conceivably be clarified sooner as part of the criminal investigation by U.S. authorities.
On Friday, April 22, VW’s board of directors met not only to sign off on the annual accounts that included an $18 billion provision to cover costs from the scandal but also to learn the status of the investigation.
But last week’s agreement with U.S. regulators to fix or buy back about 500,000 tainted cars in the U.S. may have played a key role in VW’s decision to withhold the investigation report, as VW board director Wolfgang Porsche told reporters in Wolfsburg.
“Publishing such a preliminary report would not only endanger the complex and confidential settlement talks [with authorities and plaintiffs], it would also have a negative effect on ongoing investigations as individuals who have yet to be questioned could align their statements with the contents of the report,” Porsche said. “We must avoid this.”
Porsche, who heads the subcommittee looking into the scandal, added: “As soon as a full settlement can be achieved with the Department of Justice, a detailed statement of the facts of this matter will be made public in the U.S. at that time.”
Led by U.S. law firm Jones Day and supported by auditors at Deloitte, some 450 internal and external specialists have been tasked by VW Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch and his fellow directors on the supervisory board to conduct a forensic inquiry. The goal: building an airtight case against the guilty while protecting the innocent.