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January 13, 2017 | Auto Sector Fraud: Widespread, Profitable Business Model

Danielle Park

Portfolio Manager and President of Venable Park Investment Counsel ( Ms Park is a financial analyst, attorney, finance author and regular guest on North American media. She is also the author of the best-selling myth-busting book "Juggling Dynamite: An insider's wisdom on money management, markets and wealth that lasts," and a popular daily financial blog:

As we thought likely, revelations of emissions fraud are now spreading beyond Volkswagen.  Fiat Chrysler shares were down more than 13% today as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the company of also using software to allow excess diesel emissions in about 104,000 vehicles.

In addition, Germany authorities told journalists last week that several manufacturers – three VW group marques (VW, Audi, Porsche) plus Mercedes-Benz and Opel, Vauxhall’s German counterpart, are to effect a voluntary recall in order to update the software in their cars to reduce their NOx emissions.

The German transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, has since confirmed that the government’s official investigation into the VW emissions scandal has revealed “irregularities” in cars from 11 other manufacturers: Renault, Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet, Dacia, Fiat, Hyundai, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Nissan and Suzuki.  In other words, most brands.  See:  Diesel recall, which cars are effected.

At the same time we learn today that Takata Corp. is expected as soon as Friday to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and pay roughly $1 billion to resolve a U.S. Justice Department probe of the Japanese company’s rupture-prone air bags which have killed and injured many.  See:  Takata to plead guilty to criminal wrong-doing.

There is no word yet on whether the Justice Department plans to bring any criminal cases against Takata employees alongside the company’s expected guilty plea. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that prosecutors were weighing pursuing company employees who had knowledge of the defects and cover-up.

Individual actors certainly should be prosecuted.  Corporations do not run themselves, if we do not prosecute and penalize the individuals directing the crimes (including disgorging their personal income and profits connected with the fraud) then we are living in a state anarchy and should expect lawlessness to spread.

On the upside, as we pointed out last year, the customer betrayal in emissions fraud, makes the case for electric vehicles all the more.  Why settle for lowering emissions by unknown amounts, when we can chose to eliminate them completely.

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January 13th, 2017

Posted In: Juggling Dynamite

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