House panel threatens subpoena for access to VW report
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. lawmaker threatened to subpoena Larry Thompson, the independent monitor appointed by the Justice Department to oversee Volkswagen's internal reform effort under its settlement for diesel emissions cheating, to obtain a copy of his latest progress report.
Thompson has refused to turn over the document, citing privacy concerns. Under the settlement order, the monitor must share the findings with VW and the Justice Department.
German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported April 21 that the monitor was critical of VW's efforts to change its compliance culture to prevent future regulatory fraud. German newspaper Handelsblatt also quoted Thompson as saying he was not satisfied with VW's ability to train managers in transparency and accountability.
In a May 17 letter, Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, explained why the report is important to the committee's oversight function and why the confidentiality requirements imposed on the monitor don't preclude providing that information to Congress.
"The Committee is not 'the public,' and disclosure of the reports to the committee is not 'public disclosure' as that term is used in the agreement," an argument that courts have upheld, the letter said. The committee routinely handles privileged and classified information and can safeguard the information in the progress report, it said, adding that since the substance of the report was provided to the German newspapers, "there can be no legitimate confidentiality reason to withhold this information in full from Congress."
The committee hasn't received the report and is considering its next step, a spokesperson told Automotive News.
In April, Smith and Rep. Dana Rohrahbacher, R-Calif., sent a letter to VW CEO Herbert Diess informing him that the Science Committee is investigating allegations that the automaker is still struggling to comply with emissions regulations around the world, particularly in Europe, and to ensure that emerging technologies aren't used to circumvent regulations again. The members requested documents and information from VW related to r&d and technology used to control emissions, as well as current testing data on VW emissions.
Lawmakers first requested Thompson's report on April 24.
VW has said it is cooperating with the committee but hasn't made Diess available for questioning.
Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to rigging 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software to cheat on emissions tests, a scandal that upended the automaker, led to the resignation of its CEO, and cost the company more than $30 billion in fines from authorities and other associated costs.
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