EX-VW Compliance Chief Pleads Guilty in Emissions Scandal, but Not Cooperating

Oliver Schmidt, the former head of Volkswagen's U.S. regulatory compliance office during its emissions scandal, apparently has until Dec. 6 to decide if he is going to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation.

The plea deal that Schmidt made with the U.S. Department of Justice on Aug. 4 said if Schmidt agrees to enter a cooperation agreement before his Dec. 6 sentencing date, nothing in the plea deal can supersede the new agreement.

The language in the plea deal suggests that so far Schmidt, who remains in custody while he awaits sentencing, has stayed mum about who worked with him to try and cheat Environmental Protection Agency emissions testing. He pleaded guilty Aug. 4 to two felonies—one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and one count of violating the Clean Air Act.

He faces up to 84 months in prison and a fine of up to $400,000. Sentencing is scheduled before U.S. District Judge Sean Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan. 

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement Aug. 4 that the DOJ "is committed to holding both corporations and individuals accountable to the rule of law, and to protecting U.S. consumers and the environment."

Schmidt, a German citizen, headed the engineering compliance office in suburban Detroit until March 2015 when he moved back to Germany to become senior aide to VW's head of engine development. He was arrested in Miami in January when he returned to the United States on vacation. Five other executives in Germany were also indicted but the United States is unable to arrest them there.

"As part of his guilty plea, Schmidt admitted that he agreed with other VW employees to mislead and defraud the U.S. and domestic customers who purchased diesel vehicles, and to violate the Clean Air Act," the DOJ statement said.

Schmidt was represented by David DuMouchel of the Detroit law firm Butzel Long and David Massey of Richards Kibbe & Orbe in New York.

The company agreed to plead guilty in January and to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines, but the DOJ still went after individual employees.

Volkswagen engineer James Liang pleaded guilty last September for his role in misleading regulators. Unlike Schmidt, Liang stipulated in his plea agreement that he would cooperate with prosecutors. He is expected to be sentenced later this month.

Contributing Author

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Sue Reisinger

Sue Reisinger is a Senior Reporter for Corporate Counsel. You can read more of her articles here or email her at

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