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Big Things Come in Small Packages: “This is dev­as­tat­ing because it sets up all class-actions to fail”

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COMMENT: “. . .’This is dev­as­tat­ing because it sets up all class-actions to fail,’ says attor­ney Lori Andrus, who rep­re­sents sev­eral Volk­swa­gen plain­tiffs. . . . . ‘It’s incred­i­bly inap­pro­pri­ate for Con­gress to send the mes­sage that it’s OK to hurt peo­ple by the mil­lions,’ said Volk­swa­gen owner Rebecca Kaplan. ‘The more peo­ple you hurt, the more this law will pro­tect you.’ . . .”

The EPA just filed a law­suit against VW over the diesel emis­sion scan­dal. Wish them luck. Espe­cially if a bill mov­ing its way through Con­gress dubbed the “VW Bailout Bill” becomes law. If it does become law, the EPA just might be the only entity that’s actu­ally able to bring a mean­ing­ful law­suit over the scan­dal. And not just in this case over the VW emis­sions. The “VW Bailout Bill” would effec­tively bailout any entity poten­tially fac­ing a class-action law­suit.

This bill is only 100 words in length!! Big things come in small packages!

“A Bailout for Volk­swa­gen? Con­gress Wants to Do Some­thing Absolutely Crazy” by David Dayen; The Fiscal Times; 1/4/2016.

When Volk­swa­gen admit­ted to cheat­ing on air pol­lu­tion stan­dards tests in Sep­tem­ber, it opened itself up not only to gov­ern­ment pun­ish­ment, but law­suits from 500,000 U.S. pur­chasers of its “clean” diesel vehi­cles. Volk­swa­gen has yet to fix the vehi­cles to bring them into emis­sions com­pli­ance, and even if it does, that will likely cre­ate a lower-performance car than con­sumers paid for.

“Through­out these years, Volk­swa­gen has been lying to us,” says Rebecca Kaplan, an at-large mem­ber of the Oak­land City Coun­cil, who has been active in reduc­ing car­bon emis­sions in her city. “They’ve been under­min­ing the very things that I have been fight­ing for.” Kaplan, who has stopped dri­ving her non-compliant VW Golf TDI and rejected a low­ball trade-in offer from the dealer, has joined one of hun­dreds of class-action suits against the automaker, likely to be con­sol­i­dated into a large multi-district case.

The com­bi­na­tion of reg­u­la­tory over­sight and class-action lit­i­ga­tion can keep com­pa­nies in line. But a bill in Con­gress con­sist­ing of a lit­tle more than 100 words would not only pre­vent Kaplan from seek­ing jus­tice but also crip­ple vir­tu­ally all class-action law­suits against cor­po­ra­tions. It’s known as the “Fair­ness in Class Action Lit­i­ga­tion Act,” but lawyers and advo­cates call it the “VW Bailout Bill.”

The bill, which will get a vote on the House floor in the first week of Jan­u­ary, fol­lows a series of steps by the judi­ciary to block the cour­t­house door on behalf of cor­po­ra­tions. “There’s no ques­tion the Supreme Court has ben mov­ing in that direc­tion to limit access to courts,” said Joanne Doroshow, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Jus­tice and Democ­racy. “But Con­gress has never done some­thing like this, try­ing to step in and wipe out class-actions.”

The sim­plic­ity of the VW Bailout Bill belies the chaos it would cre­ate. Pro­po­nents like the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, the bill’s lead­ing lob­by­ist, say they merely want to get rid of “non-injury” class-action cases, based on poten­tial dam­ages from defec­tive con­sumer prod­ucts or cor­po­rate actions that have yet to result in harm. Lawyers for class-action lit­i­gants argue that defec­tive prod­ucts deserve com­pen­sa­tion even if the con­sumer hasn’t yet been injured.

But the bill goes much fur­ther, stat­ing that courts may not cer­tify class-action suits unless the plain­tiff “affir­ma­tively demon­strates that each pro­posed class mem­ber suf­fered the same type and scope of injury as the named class rep­re­sen­ta­tive or representatives.”

“This is dev­as­tat­ing because it sets up all class-actions to fail,” says attor­ney Lori Andrus, who rep­re­sents sev­eral Volk­swa­gen plain­tiffs. If every class mem­ber must have the same type and scope of injury, it forces exten­sive proofs for class cer­ti­fi­ca­tion — essen­tially a full-blown trial up front, where plain­tiffs will have to prove that their injuries match with their fel­low representatives.

Not only would these tri­als be costly, but they would empower cor­po­rate defense lawyers’ schemes to limit dam­ages. While cur­rent rules already require class mem­bers to have some level of com­mon­al­ity and typ­i­cal­ity, the words “same type and scope” offer oppor­tu­ni­ties to refine that fur­ther. “It’s not clear what they mean by same injury,” says Andre Mura, another class-action plaintiff’s attor­ney. The terms are so vague, Mura argued, that they would have to be inter­preted repeat­edly, with unpre­dictable results.

In the Volk­swa­gen case, for exam­ple, “it could mean the same model car, the same defeat device, the same emis­sions sys­tem, the same con­sumer harm,” Mura says. “When really Volk­swa­gen engaged in the same course of con­duct on all their vehi­cles.” Defense attor­neys could claim that a class rep­re­sen­ta­tive who released fewer emis­sions because they drove fewer miles than their col­leagues, or drove in harsher weather, or with lower tire pres­sure, should be excluded from the case. That could either whit­tle down classes to limit dam­ages or dis­qual­ify them from certification.

And the appli­ca­tions go beyond Volk­swa­gen. “In a mort­gage fraud case, the class might have all been deceived in same way, but the doc­u­ments signed might have been incon­sis­tent,” says Andrus. “Or with for-profit schools, they might have paid dif­fer­ent tuition or taken dif­fer­ent classes.” Andrus has bat­tled these tac­tics before, but the con­gres­sional bill would cod­ify them into law. “There’s no ques­tion this was writ­ten by a defense lawyer whose job it is to defend cor­po­ra­tions,” she says.

With­out a class-action option, VW cus­tomers would have lit­tle recourse. “The dam­ages are not enor­mous in the sense that I could hire indi­vid­ual coun­sel,” says George Far­quar, a sci­en­tist and small busi­ness owner from Liv­er­more, Calif., who is part of a class-action suit against the car­maker. “It’s amaz­ing this leg­is­la­tion is being considered.”

A Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau study found that vic­tims of just financial-related class-action set­tle­ments received over $2 bil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion between 2008 and 2012, to say noth­ing of the changes in cor­po­rate behav­ior aris­ing from those cases. “The alter­na­tive is that those claims dis­ap­pear,” says the Cen­ter for Jus­tice and Democracy’s Doroshow. “You’re talk­ing about pro­vid­ing basic immu­nity (to corporations).”

Incred­i­bly, the House is pair­ing the VW Bailout Bill with other leg­is­la­tion designed to limit cor­po­rate lia­bil­ity. The FACT (Fur­ther­ing Asbestos Claim Trans­parency) Act would force pub­lic report­ing of per­sonal infor­ma­tion of asbestos vic­tims, in an effort to delay and limit com­pen­sa­tion for their poisoning.

The Cham­ber of Com­merce also sup­ports the FACT Act, claim­ing it would pre­vent double-dipping by mesothe­lioma suf­fer­ers who may have been exposed to mul­ti­ple asbestos-lined prod­ucts. But the clear intent is to both chill vic­tims from com­ing for­ward and delay their com­pen­sa­tion. Because mesothe­lioma suf­fer­ers typ­i­cally only live between four and 18 months after diag­no­sis, this would shift many vic­tim claims to wrong­ful death, which has a lower pay­out rate. Cor­po­ra­tions like Hon­ey­well have finan­cial rea­son to want vic­tims of their use of harm­ful chem­i­cals to die quicker, so they can pay their fam­i­lies less.

House pas­sage of the VW Bailout Bill and FACT Act is likely, but the Sen­ate could pro­vide a road­block. How­ever, as we saw with the year-end omnibus, ide­o­log­i­cal bills that can’t oth­er­wise pass on their own have a ten­dency to ride along with must-pass leg­is­la­tion and become law.

Cor­po­rate immu­nity has been a major pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of John Roberts’ Supreme Court. Rul­ings like AT&T Mobil­ity v. Con­cep­cion and Amer­i­can Express v. Ital­ian Col­ors allow cor­po­ra­tions to force their cus­tomers into manda­tory arbi­tra­tion, rather than the judi­cial sys­tem, to set­tle dis­putes. And 2011’s Wal­mart v. Dukes tossed out class-action cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in a gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion case, argu­ing that the retailer couldn’t pos­si­bly have dis­crim­i­nated against all 1.5 mil­lion of its female employ­ees in the exact same man­ner. Sub­se­quent cir­cuit courts have fol­lowed Supreme Court prece­dent and tight­ened class-action restrictions.

But while the bar for class-action cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is already set incred­i­bly high, the VW Bailout Bill adds an entirely new set of require­ments, cir­cum­vent­ing not only judi­cial prece­dent but also a long­stand­ing fed­eral rule (Rule 23) that lays out class-action stan­dards. And it would pro­tect cor­po­ra­tions that engi­neer major frauds, where it is dif­fi­cult to bring thou­sands of indi­vid­ual claims.

“It’s incred­i­bly inap­pro­pri­ate for Con­gress to send the mes­sage that it’s OK to hurt peo­ple by the mil­lions,” said Volk­swa­gen owner Rebecca Kaplan. “The more peo­ple you hurt, the more this law will pro­tect you.”

The GOP’s response to VW’s sys­tem­atic scam­ming of US con­sumers is to make it effec­tively impos­si­ble for not just VW’s con­sumers but ALL Amer­i­can con­sumers to wage a class-action law­suit against any cor­po­ra­tion at all.

VW own­ers can take their com­plaints into private-arbitration courts that’s all the rage these days. The own­ers that accepted VW’s ‘good will’ $500 cash pay­ments will prob­a­bly aren’t going to have a choice any­way if they decide to sue since an arbi­tra­tion clause was added to the con­tract required to get the moneyThat should go well


2 comments for “Big Things Come in Small Packages: “This is dev­as­tat­ing because it sets up all class-actions to fail””

  1. Since the EPA’s lawsuit just might be the only one VW faces if the US if the “VW Bailout Bill” becomes law, it’s worth noting that the maximum possible fine VW faces in that EPA lawsuit is actually a much higher number than the $18 billion that the company was estimating back in September that the scandal could cost: the EPA’s lawsuit could potentially cost VW $48 billion. Of course, as the article below notes, it’s also almost certainly not going to actually end up being that much. And if the $58 billion lawsuit Toyota faced in the early 2000’s over its own emissions scandal (which was reduced to $34 million) is any indication of what to expect, the final cost of VW’s lawsuit might be closer to $30 million:

    VW faces billions in fines as U.S. sues for environmental violations

    WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT | By Julia Edwards and Georgina Prodhan
    Tue Jan 5, 2016 3:48pm EST

    The U.S. Justice Department has sued Volkswagen for up to $48 billion for allegedly violating environmental laws – a reminder of the carmaker’s problems nearly four months after its emissions scandal broke.

    Although such U.S. lawsuits are typically settled at a fraction of the theoretical maximum penalty, analysts said the size of the claim meant Volkswagen (VW) could face a larger bill than previously anticipated.

    “The announcement serves as a reminder/reality check of VW’s still unresolved emissions issues,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note, maintaining their “sell” recommendation on the stock.

    VW (VOWG_p.DE) shares fell as much as 6 percent to a six-week low on Tuesday, the biggest drop on Germany’s blue-chip DAX index.

    The civil lawsuit, announced on Monday, reflects the growing number of allegations against VW since the German company admitted in September to installing devices to cheat emissions tests in several 2.0 liter diesel vehicle models.

    According to a Reuters review of the U.S. complaint, VW could in theory face fines of as much as $37,500 per vehicle for each of two violations of the law; up to $3,750 per “defeat device”; and another $37,500 for each day of violation.

    The complaint says illegal devices to impair emission control systems were installed in nearly 600,000 vehicles in the United States. (here)

    In September, U.S. regulators initially said Europe’s biggest carmaker could face fines in excess of $18 billion.

    The lawsuit had been expected, and analysts believe any fine will be far below the theoretical maximum. Although U.S. authorities sued Toyota for up to $58 billion for environmental violations around the turn of the century, they agreed a settlement that cost the Japanese carmaker about $34 million.

    “We have not enumerated a maximum possible penalty, and will decline to speculate on what the court may ultimately choose to do,” said U.S. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle.

    Equinet analyst Holger Schmidt cut his rating on VW shares to “reduce” from “neutral”.

    “We continue to believe that no one is able to make anything else than a wild guess on potential fines,” he said.

    During December, VW’s shares had been recovering as the carmaker announced incrementally positive news such as simple fixes for about 8.5 million affected cars in Europe.

    The stock fell on Tuesday 22 percent below pre-scandal levels, with analysts particularly concerned about the impact on VW in the United States, where the firm has long struggled to make inroads and tougher regulations mean it faces bigger potential fines.

    The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), accuses VW of four counts of violating the U.S. Clean Air Act, including tampering with the emissions control system and failing to report violations.

    “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, head of the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division.

    The lawsuit is being filed in the Eastern District of Michigan and then transferred to northern California, where class-action lawsuits against VW are pending.

    “We’re alleging that they knew what they were doing, they intentionally violated the law and that the consequences were significant to health,” said a senior Justice Department official.

    VW’s cheating of diesel emissions tests allowed it to avoid a costly revamp of engines to meet new U.S. standards.

    The Justice Department has also been investigating criminal fraud allegations against VW for misleading U.S. consumers and regulators. Criminal charges would require a higher burden of proof than the civil lawsuit.

    The U.S. lawsuit also alleges VW gamed emissions controls in many of its 3.0 liter diesel models, including the Audi Q7, and the Porsche Cayenne.

    VW’s earlier admissions eliminate almost any possibility that the automaker could defend itself in court, Daniel Riesel of Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C, who defends companies accused of environmental crimes, said.

    To win the civil case, the government does not need to prove the degree of intentional deception at VW – just that the cheating occurred, Riesel said. “I don’t think there is any defense in a civil suit,” he said.

    Instead, the automaker will seek to negotiate a lower penalty by arguing that the maximum would be “crippling to the company and lead to massive layoffs”, Riesel said.

    Even after VW first admitted to using cheat devices in certain models, the automaker “failed to come forward and reveal” that other vehicles contained such devices, the government said.

    To cheat the emissions controls, VW installed software that allowed the vehicles to detect when they were being tested on a flatbed. When the vehicles detected they were actually on the road, the software caused the emissions control systems to underperform or shutdown, the government said, allowing the cars to emit dangerous levels of air pollution.

    The civil lawsuit does not preclude the Justice Department from pursuing criminal charges against VW, said the Justice Department official.

    “The lawsuit had been expected, and analysts believe any fine will be far below the theoretical maximum. Although U.S. authorities sued Toyota for up to $58 billion for environmental violations around the turn of the century, they agreed a settlement that cost the Japanese carmaker about $34 million.
    Yep, and if a similar fine is what VW faces, that would come out to about $30 million.

    So we’ll see what happens with the fine, but note how winning the civil case simply involves proving that cheating occurred, something which VW already admits happened. And yet VW will still be able to get that penalty reduced basically by threatening mass layoffs:

    To win the civil case, the government does not need to prove the degree of intentional deception at VW – just that the cheating occurred, Riesel said. “I don’t think there is any defense in a civil suit,” he said.

    Instead, the automaker will seek to negotiate a lower penalty by arguing that the maximum would be “crippling to the company and lead to massive layoffs”, Riesel said.

    It’s an interesting argument because it suggests one of two possibilities: that VW will just go out of business entirely (which would most certainly lead to massive layoffs), or that VW will somehow determine that the lawsuit somehow changed the economics of manufacturing and selling cars in the US. And it’s not really clear how a fine over past cheating would suddenly make VW’s pre-scandal strategy of investing in growing its share of the US market an undesirable corporate strategy, although if cost-cutting measures are required after a big fine, the money-losing investments in the US could be on the chopping block.

    At the same time, those loss-generating US investments were done for a reason: a bet on higher future profits. And it’s not like those higher future profits that come from a successful growth of VW’s US market share suddenly evaporate with a large fine. Although it is possible that the knowledge that VW might get really big fines for really big scandals could change the profit/loss calculus. For instance, if there are any other big scandals yet to be discovered in VW’s operations (a gasoline-powered vehicle emissions scandal lurking in there, perhaps?), well, that could potentially make the prospect of big future profits a lot less likely.

    That’s all part of what we get to wait and see play out. But don’t forget the other possibility: where VW gets its fine dramatically reduced and the “VW Bailout Bill” becomes law. Because that same argument that could get VW’s fine dramatically reduced (it would lead to mass layoffs) is basically the same argument the corporatists in Congress are going to use to justify the “VW Bailout Bill” that would kill class-action lawsuits.

    Is a corporatist twofer on the way? Quite possibly. The threat of massive layoffs makes a powerful argument. It might be a soon-to-be-out-of-date argument too, but for the time being it’s pretty persuasive.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 5, 2016, 7:12 pm
  2. Wow. VW found an rather potent legal strategy for shielding its executives from any potential liability in the diesel emissions scandal: just cite Germany’s privacy laws to avoid providing emails or any other communications to US investigators:

    The New York Times

    VW Refuses to Give American States Documents in Emissions Inquiries


    JAN. 8, 2016

    Citing German privacy laws, Volkswagen has refused to provide emails or other communications among its executives to attorneys general in the United States, impeding American investigations into the company’s emissions-cheating scandal, according to officials in several states.

    The revelation signals a turning point in the now openly fractious relations between Volkswagen and American investigators, after claims by the Justice Department, in its own inquiry this week, that the company had recently “impeded and obstructed” regulators and provided “misleading information.”

    Significantly, investigators say, Volkswagen’s actions limit their ability to identify which employees knew about or sanctioned the deceptions. Finding the people responsible for the cheating is important to the lawsuits: Penalties would be greater if the states and others pursuing Volkswagen in court could prove that top executives were aware of or directed the activity.

    Our patience with Volkswagen is wearing thin,” New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said. “Volkswagen’s cooperation with the states’ investigation has been spotty — and frankly, more of the kind one expects from a company in denial than one seeking to leave behind a culture of admitted deception.”

    He was one of several attorneys general to express dissatisfaction in response to inquiries from The New York Times.

    “I find it frustrating that, despite public statements professing cooperation and an expressed desire to resolve the various investigations that it faces following its calculated deception, Volkswagen is, in fact, resisting cooperation by citing German law,” said Connecticut’s attorney general, George Jepsen. “We will seek to use any means available to us to conduct a thorough investigation.”

    When he was named chief executive shortly after the scandal broke, Matthias Müller said “My most urgent task is to win back trust” and promised “maximum transparency.” But opening up a company known for its particularly insular culture has been a tall order.

    German investigators are not making similar complaints about Volkswagen. Klaus Ziehe, a spokesman for prosecutors in Braunschweig, a city close to Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, said that under German law, prosecutors were allowed to carry out raids of Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg offices to gather possible evidence that could include email exchanges. He did not elaborate on what they had found.

    “We are not and do not want to be dependent on that which Volkswagen gives us,” Mr. Ziehe said in a written response to questions. At the same time, he said, the company had been working with German investigators.

    “We can’t complain about our cooperation with the company,” Mr. Ziehe said. “We have the impression that we have received everything that we have specifically requested.”

    Volkswagen, in a statement, said it could not comment on continuing proceedings.

    Germany, a close ally of America, is known for strict privacy laws like its Federal Data Protection Act, which limits access to data, particularly outside the European Union. And it is not the only European country with privacy laws; similar issues with Swiss laws have also hampered American investigators in their pursuit of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. Strains over data-sharing between the United States and Europe also emerged after the spying revelations linked to Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

    Germany also has a history of refusing to extradite its citizens to the United States. Still, American investigators have dealt with German corporations for many years and often reach amicable settlements.

    The United States, where the scandal originated, is seen as potentially conducting tougher investigations of Volkswagen than Germany, where the carmaker is one of the nation’s largest employers. Prosecutors in Braunschweig initially said they would conduct a formal investigation of Martin Winterkorn, V.W.’s former chief executive, but quickly backtracked.

    The Justice Department, which filed a civil suit against Volkswagen this week, has not ruled out filing a criminal charge or targeting specific executives. A Justice Department spokesman declined to say whether it was facing obstacles in its own inquiry.

    Lacking access to officials at Volkswagen headquarters makes it more difficult to determine who was responsible for the wrongdoing, William H. Sorrell, the Vermont attorney general, said in a recent interview in Burlington. “One of the things that’s important to the state and others in terms of looking at the egregiousness or seriousness of the conduct is who at Volkswagen knew what and when,” Mr. Sorrell said.

    “It doesn’t make this attorney general feel all warm and fuzzy,” he said, that information “has been coming out as gradually as it has been.”

    Mr. Schneiderman’s office declined to comment on whether American investigators were collaborating with German prosecutors. In declining to turn over evidence to American investigators, Volkswagen has principally cited the German Federal Data Protection Act, an aide said in an email, as well as the German Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, decisions of the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, “and (for good measure) provisions of the German Criminal Code.”

    Volkswagen has maintained that a relatively small number of engineers and managers were responsible for the cheating. None of the nine Volkswagen executives who have been suspended in connection with the scandal were members of the management board. But several, like Wolfgang Hatz, who headed engine and transmission development, reported directly to members of the board.

    The revelations may raise questions about the commitment of Mr. Müller to cleaning house. He was a protégé of Mr. Winterkorn and has close ties to a number of the central figures in the investigation. He was V.W.’s head of product planning when the cheating took place.

    In a tacit admission by Volkswagen that it needs to smooth tense relations with American officials, Mr. Müller will meet with Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. administrator, on Wednesday at the company’s request, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

    Officials at the office of the Texas attorney general had no immediate comment. The California attorney general’s office declined to comment.

    The Environmental Protection Agency, along with regulators in Canada and California, have also accused Volkswagen of installing devices to cheat on emissions tests on more vehicles than acknowledged, a claim Volkswagen disputes.

    Germany has faced criticism in the past for laws that place a higher value on personal privacy than public interest. German confidentiality laws may have prevented doctors from informing the German airline Lufthansa that one of its pilots, Andreas Lubitz, was undergoing treatment for depression. In March, Mr. Lubitz deliberately crashed a passenger jet operated by the Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings into a mountain in France, killing himself and 149 others who were aboard.

    “In the E.U., data protection is a fundamental right that is in the European charter,” said Paul M. Schwartz, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and co-director of its Center for Law & Technology. The German federal constitutional court has also identified a right to “informational self-determination,” he said. Such laws are “real obstacles,” he said, adding, “Europeans really take privacy seriously.”

    Still, while American regulators have faced challenges before from European corporations, the level of frustration in the Volkswagen case is striking. Philip Urofsky, a partner at Shearman & Sterling and former assistant chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section, said, “Obviously, a European company ought to first and foremost follow its own domestic laws.”

    That said, privacy laws have the potential to be misused by companies. “They frankly tie U.S. investigators’ hands, or even law firms doing internal investigations, in ways that, in my personal opinion, were not anticipated or expected,” Mr. Urofsky said.

    Such issues as the invoking of privacy laws are “not frequent, but they’re also not unusual,” said Benjamin M. Lawsky, former superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services and a former top official in the state attorney general’s office. But, he said, “it is the rare case that it ends up being a total obstruction.”

    Mr. Lawsky left the department last year, shortly after it was involved in a a $2.5 billion settlement with Deutsche Bank over allegations that it had manipulated interest rates.

    While he did not want to draw analogies to his own previous cases, Mr. Lawsky called such issues frustrating. Still, he said, investigators sometimes eventually find ways to get what they want — whether by getting the information from American computer servers, through negotiations with companies or in cooperation with foreign law enforcement.

    “Often when you start digging down, those rules are subject to interpretation,” he said. “If you really push at how those rules have been interpreted, you sometimes can find ways to get around them.”

    “Lacking access to officials at Volkswagen headquarters makes it more difficult to determine who was responsible for the wrongdoing, William H. Sorrell, the Vermont attorney general, said in a recent interview in Burlington. “One of the things that’s important to the state and others in terms of looking at the egregiousness or seriousness of the conduct is who at Volkswagen knew what and when,” Mr. Sorrell said.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 8, 2016, 3:50 pm

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