Peters & Peters

Fiat Chrysler pleads guilty in diesel emissions case


Key facts:

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (FCA US) pleaded guilty to criminal allegations of wire fraud, breaching the Clean Air Act, and conspiracy to defraud US regulators and customers over several years by misrepresenting the design, function and compliance of the emission control systems and environmental impact caused by some of their vehicles, rendering them non compliant with US emissions standards.

The case was brought by the DOJ, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section.

According to the plea agreement, FCA US purposely calibrated the emissions control systems on the subject vehicles to produce less NOx emissions during the federal test procedures, or driving “cycles,” than when the vehicles were driven under normal conditions. FCA US concealed the emissions impact and function of the emissions control systems from the US regulators and consumer by:

  1. submitting false and misleading applications to US regulators;
  2. making false and misleading representations to US regulators both in person and in response to written requests for information; and
  3. making false and misleading representations to consumers about the vehicles in advertisements and in window labels, including that the assertion that the vehicles complied with US emissions requirements, had best-in-class fuel efficiency as measured by EPA testing, and were equipped with “clean EcoDiesel engine[s]” that reduced emissions.

In August 2022, FCA US was sentenced to a fine of US$96,145,784 and to forfeit US$203,572,892. As part of guilty plea, the company will continue to co-operate with the DOJ in any ongoing or future criminal investigations. In addition, the company agreed to continue to implement a compliance and ethics program designed to prevent and detect fraudulent conduct throughout its operations and will report to the DOJ regarding remediation, implementation, and testing of its compliance program and internal controls.

In parallel with the prosecution of the company, three individuals were indicted for their alleged role in the conspiracy to defraud US regulators and customers by making false and misleading statements about the emissions controls and fuel efficiency of more than 100,000 diesel SUVs and pick up trucks sold by FCA US in the US. The three defendants were each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the US and to violate the Clean Air Act, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and six counts of violating the Clean Air Act.

One defendant was also charged with two counts of making false statements to representatives of the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. In July 2023, the latter entered a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement. He was sentenced in November 2023 to one day of imprisonment with credit for time already served. The status of the proceedings against the remaining defendants is unknown.

Other diesel emissions tampering cases continue.


DOJ press releases of June and August 2002

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