Volkswagen could still pay billions to settle criminal probe

Settling the probe into VW's practices could also leave the company with an independent monitor.

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Who would have thought that three little letters could screw over a company this thoroughly?

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Volkswagen may have already agreed to a $15 billion settlement with US regulators, but its legal troubles are far from over in the US. There's still the matter of the Department of Justice criminal investigation, and settling that side of the matter could cost the company billions more than it's already spent.

The DOJ and VW have yet to set anything in stone, but the two parties are allegedly going through preliminary settlement discussions for its criminal probe, Reuters reports. In this instance, Volkswagen could end up paying more than $1 billion in fines, and that's on top of what it's already agreed to pay out. The settlement has taken a long time to achieve, thanks to simultaneous civil suits at the state level.

Fines would only be part of the story, as well. Reuters reported earlier this year that the criminal investigation could end up with an independent monitor that would watch the German automaker like a hawk to ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. Toyota and GM have both received similar overseers after settling cases of their own with the US government.

If you think that's the end of what VW might owe in the US, it's not. If Volkswagen is unable to rectify the issue with its 3.0-liter diesels, it could spend billions more to set up a buyback scheme similar to its 2.0-liter settlement.

Volkswagen did not immediately return a request for comment, but a spokesman told Reuters that the company is "cooperating with federal and state regulators," a pretty common statement for VW to issue in 2016.