VW accused of destroying evidence in U.S. whistle-blower suit
Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
In a whistle-blower lawsuit that has been filed by a former Volkswagen employee in Michigan, individuals with the German carmaker have been accused of deleting electronic data not long after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first accused VW of equipping its vehicles with emissions cheating software. The former employee, Daniel Donovan, was an information manager for VW in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
The lawsuit claims that he was wrongfully dismissed last December because it was suspected that he would report VW for destroying electronic data that may have been used as evidence against the automaker by U.S. authorities. The suit goes on to describe how Donovan was instructed by his superiors to tell the chief information officer not to delete electronic data on Sept. 18. According to the lawsuit, the chief information officer was upset by this and that data continued to be deleted until Sept. 21, though the claim also alleges that backup data was being destroyed even after this date.
According to Donovan’s suit, he informed his managers that deleting this data may constitute “obstruction of justice” and that he did not want to engage in the activity. The suit also alleges that outside accountants that were hired by VW complained when they were not able to access all of the information they requested. On Dec. 6, Donovan was formally dismissed from his position, a dismissal that Donovan contends was prompted by the alleged certainty that “‘[Donovan] was about to report the obstruction of justice and spoliation of evidence’” to U.S. authorities. VW maintains that the employee’s dismissal is unrelated to the emissions scandal.
This lawsuit may put even greater pressure on U.S. officials to take a harder line with VW, particularly if Volkswagen cannot find a way to fix the emissions issue for people in the U.S. who own affected vehicles by the March 24—the date on which a federal judge in San Francisco asked the German company to present a plan to solve the problem. As of now, Volkswagen is still negotiating the penalties it will have to pay with the U.S. Justice Department and the EPA for the emissions-cheating software the company equipped in some of its diesel vehicle models.