Remarks by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen on the Settlement of Clean Air Act Claims against Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz USA LLC

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon.  I am very pleased to be joined today by colleagues from the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, including EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark, and EPA Assistant Administrator Susan Parker Bodine.  And the reason we are all here is to announce an important matter that involves the protection of our environment. 

I will turn the podium over to Administrator Wheeler to make that announcement, before I offer a few brief comments myself after him, but before we proceed, I want to express my profound appreciation for Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, both in regard to this matter and the administration’s broader environmental policy efforts.  He and I have worked together on tough environmental policy issues since the mid-2000s when he served as Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and I served as General Counsel at OMB.  His dedication to serving the American people and his faithful interpretation of the nation’s environmental laws have been hallmarks of his service to our country.  And those are certainly demonstrated by what he is about to tell you.  Administrator Wheeler.    

*        *        *

Thank you Administrator Wheeler.  I want to emphasize the strong commitment that both the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have made to the enforcement of our pollution laws, including the Clean Air Act.  So let me briefly describe the key ways that this settlement will fulfill that commitment, as it includes several different forms of relief. 

First, as Administrator Wheeler just mentioned, Daimler will pay a civil penalty totaling $875 million, which equates to about a $3,500 penalty for each vehicle that was sold in the U.S.  That is the largest per-vehicle civil penalty judgment ever imposed for a mobile emissions violation under the Clean Air Act.   

Second, Daimler will fix each of the affected vehicles without any cost to the consumer.  That means recalling the vehicles and bringing them into compliance with Clean Air Act emissions standards.  We estimate the cost to Daimler to perform these recalls is close to $400 million. 

Third, Daimler will mitigate the damage this scheme did to our nation’s air by replacing at its own expense no less than 15 old locomotive engines with new, low nitrogen oxide-emitting engines that should offset the illegal emissions from its vehicles. 

Fourth, Daimler and Mercedes-Benz USA will strengthen their internal corporate compliance procedures to prevent future violations of the Clean Air Act.  They must hire a third-party to review their compliance measures on a regular basis going forward to ensure they are strong enough. 

Taking all these things together, the total cost to Daimler of these undertakings and other requirements is around $1.5 billion.  We expect that this relief will also serve to deter any others who may be tempted to violate our nation’s pollution laws in the future.

From the DOJ side of this, the settlement is the culmination of a tremendous effort by the Environment & Natural Resources Division and its staff, especially Stefan Bachman, Lori Jonas, Steve O’Rourke, and Jerry MacLaughlin.  The Attorney General and I appreciate their work on this case and all the division does on behalf of the American people to enforce our environmental laws.  I also thank Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark and his counsel Michael Buschbacher for their leadership during the settlement negotiations.  

Now, for the EPA side of things, I also want to thank EPA Assistant Administrator Bodine and the men and women of the EPA for their tremendous work and for their outstanding partnership during this investigation.  And I again want to express my gratitude to Administrator Wheeler for his leadership and dedication to the nation’s pollution laws.

At this point, Assistant Attorney General Clark and Assistant Administrator Bodine will be available to provide additional information and help us address any questions about today’s announcement.  Thank you very much.

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However, its most recent report, which covers April through September 2019, met this reporting requirement by including statistics on the total number and type of investigations it conducted. Further, three of the six selected IC-element OIGs—the DIA, NGA, and NRO OIGs—did not consistently document notifications to complainants in the reprisal investigation case files GAO reviewed. Taking steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in such cases occur and are documented in the case files would provide these OIGs with greater assurance that they consistently inform complainants of the status of their investigations and their rights as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding the federal government against waste, fraud, and abuse. The OIGs across the government oversee investigations of whistleblower complaints, which can include protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Whistleblowers in the IC face unique challenges due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work. GAO was asked to review whistleblower protection programs managed by selected IC-element OIGs. This report examines (1) the number and time frames of investigations into complaints that selected IC-element OIGs received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established timeliness objectives for these investigations; (2) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have implemented quality standards and processes for their investigation programs; (3) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established training requirements for investigators; and (4) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have met notification and reporting requirements for investigative activities. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2020. Information that the IC elements deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO selected the ICIG and the OIGs of five of the largest IC elements for review. GAO analyzed time frames for all closed investigations of complaints received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018; reviewed OIG policies, procedures, training requirements, and semiannual reports to Congress; conducted interviews with 39 OIG investigators; and reviewed a selection of case files for senior leaders and reprisal cases from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that selected IC-element OIGs establish timeliness objectives for investigations, implement or enhance quality assurance programs, establish training plans, and take steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in reprisal cases occur. The selected IC-element OIGs concurred with the recommendations and discussed steps they planned to take to implement them. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604, farrellb@gao.gov or Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130, mazanecb@gao.gov.
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