Volkswagen Group must strive for a less authoritarian structure, be more inclined to allow new ideas and accept bad news, says former deputy U.S. attorney general Larry Thompson, the monitor appointed to oversee the automaker’s integrity and compliance as part of its emissions-cheating scandal settlement with the U.S. authorities. Thompson spoke with Henning Krogh, a reporter at Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
When you started working on the diesel crisis, what did you think VW's core problem was?
That is part of a complex of issues that we are facing on the monitor team, and I still have questions on that. The people involved in the matter are very sharp. Why did they do something like that? Why did they expose the company to such risk? They hadn’t defrauded the company. I think their jobs would have been safe if they had just been honest.
The report into the scandal by law firm Jones Day is not available to the public. Is it important to you as monitor?
It is not a report but rather many small reports, a large number of documents. The monitor panel has been made aware of the content. The reports are very detailed, very comprehensive, and the law firm did a very good job in its attempt to understand what happened. I believe that all the members of Volkswagen’s top management are still not familiar with these documents since, under German law, the supervisory board must hold its own investigation to determine whether the management board had exercised its fiduciary responsibility.
What do you think of the arrest of Audi CEO Rupert Stadler?
I am naturally watching this new development very closely.
Why did you decide to set up an office near Audi in Ingolstadt?
We have to be on site with full-time staff. And a large share of the work relates to Audi. There are legal differences between German and American labor law, for example.
One year out of potentially three has passed since you began working on the VW case. Is one-third of the work already done?
The job is overwhelming. VW is a large, complex company. We agreed with senior management to pursue a common goal. We are not adversaries. We are both working to bring about change within the company. We will try to do that. But we won't be able to do the impossible.