New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.
Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 18 Feb 2020 10:00
Federal prosecutors kick into high gear, and soon, VW executives meet their fate. Meanwhile, Matthias Müller faces his own changing fortune, as company insiders initiate a power play. It's the beginning of a new era for Volkswagen.
Support our show by supporting our sponsors!
It's July 2016 in Voltsberg, Germany. Inside Volkswagen headquarters, Mateus Mueller sits at a long glass table. He's surrounded by company executives. They're talking about earnings and projected sales, but Mueller can't focus. He keeps tapping his pen against the table, feeling jittery and anxious. Mueller gazes across the conference room. When he took over as CEO, he asked his aides to brighten up the place. They added big leafy plants and large photos. Mueller was pleased. The room used to feel stale and now it felt alive again. It was a powerful symbol. This was the kind of spirit he'd bring to the company. But the feeling didn't last long, and as Mueller catches his reflection in the glass table, what he sees is a scared, aging man. A man who faces an incredible threat. The executive next to Mueller shifts. Mueller snaps out of it. Volkswagen's lead accountant is describing the company's financial situation. And lastly, I must address our civil settlement in America. At $14.7 billion, it presents a tremendous hit to our bottom line. Mueller blanches. No auto company has ever been forced to pay so much for its mistakes. Thank you. I'm really aware of the settlement, but we must have enough in reserves. The accountant straightens his shoulders and offers a broad smile. Hey, Mueller, it's good news. We have $18 billion set aside. Excellent. All right, now moving on. Where are we with sales this quarter? The numbers are promising, sir. Sales are still down, but revenue is climbing steadily. Mueller beams with relief. He can feel his chest relaxed. Money can solve a lot of problems. And as long as the billions keep rolling in, his job is safe. Thank you very much. Now, ask for next quarter sales. But just then, a communications executive clear says throat. I'm sorry, sir, but we must address the latest allegations from America. Mueller stiffens. It seems he can't ignore the elephant in the boardroom. US officials have made damning accusations. They say Mueller personally knew about Volkswagen's plans to cheat air pollution tests. Now believe me, sir, I'm certain you have nothing to do with this emissions business. I know everyone at this table feels the same. Nevertheless, it is important that the company issue an official response to the charges. Mueller struggles to push down his anger and fear. He must keep control. If I had nothing to do with this business, then it's obvious what you should tell the Americans. And what is that, sir? Tell them the truth that the allegations against me are groundless. Understand? But sir. Mueller casts a withering look at the executive who offers a quick, bashful nod and then sinks back into his chair. Now everyone, shall we move on? The room stays silent. And as he shuffles his papers, Mueller catches his own reflection again in the glass table. His eyes are ringed with dark circles. His face seems to sag. And it's at this moment his worst fears start to bubble up. Yes, the company will survive the crisis, but Mueller knows he may not. The Americans are furious, and the US authorities have been very busy. Slowly but relentlessly, they will go after every Volkswagen executive they can. It's only a matter of time before they come after him. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily. When an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska, it sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins, and where it's headed will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 6th on ABC, and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. Some wondering, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American scandal. For decades, Volkswagen was a crown jewel in the European auto market. But when the world learned it had cheated with its diesel cars, the company took a number of hits. The diesels were pulled from the road, and lawsuits flooded in from practically every country where Volkswagen did business. And after three long years, Volkswagen's reckoning was far from over. The company continued to adopt a defiant posture when responding to criminal charges. And it repeated the same defense, according to Volkswagen, no one in upper management was involved in the diesel scheme. The U.S. Department of Justice would step up efforts to hold the company accountable, and that would mean arrests, trials, and ultimately prison. This is episode four, The Wheels Keep Turning. It's September 9, 2016. James Leang rises from his chair inside a federal courtroom in Detroit. He makes sure his back is straight and his expression plain. It's a hot day in Detroit, and the air conditioning in the courtroom doesn't appear to be working. So Leang wipes his brow, but it's not just the temperature that's making him sweat. Last year when news of the scandal broke, federal authorities immediately got to work on an investigation of Volkswagen. They wanted to know which employees actually constructed the defeat devices. Those individuals would be charged in criminal court. The investigators followed the clues which led them to Leang's doorstep. Leang is a 33 year veteran of Volkswagen's engineering department. He's at the point in his life when he should be thinking about going into retirement. Instead, after facing prosecutors, he's probably going to prison. The judge reviews the charges against Leang. Prosecutors say that he was one of the engineers who developed Volkswagen's defeat device, the software that allowed Volkswagen to cheat on air pollution tests. They also say that Leang helped come up with the lies that Volkswagen used to trick the EPA. Leang stifles a sigh because he knows that they're right on both counts. Leang doesn't dispute the truth of the allegations, but the truth is also complicated. It wasn't his idea to hide illegal code in the diesel engines, but it was his responsibility to create it. He was given an order. Leang never liked the idea of helping his company lie to customers. Yet, when he's honest with himself, he admits that he loved the challenge of creating the code. It was subtle and sophisticated, and it was good enough to fool complicated government tests. Yes, he committed a crime, but it also felt like an act of invention. He was ingenious, but for all the wrong reasons. The judge asks Leang a series of questions. Leang responds with simple yes or no answers. It's the strategy his lawyers recommended, come clean. And in a way, it's a huge relief. He doesn't have to hide anything anymore. He doesn't have to lie. The judge asks the final question. How does Leang plead? Guilty, he says. The gavel comes down with a bang, and Leang's lawyer leads him toward the exit. The lawyer says they'll return in January for sentencing, and Leang can expect to be sent away for three years. Leang stares at the floor, feeling stunned. Suddenly his fate is all too real. He wipes his nose and makes his way to the exit. Leang emerges from the courthouse blinking in the bright sunlight. As his eyes adjust, he spots a crowd of reporters. They're a big pack. They're all waiting on the sidewalk. Leang pushes past them without saying a word. He's done talking about Volkswagen. He's already said what he had to. He spoke with officials from the federal government, and they told him that if he cooperated, he'd get a lenient sentence. So he did. He gave information to federal prosecutors about Volkswagen's diesel scheme. He knows his plea bargain would cause a lot of problems for a lot of people, especially people in Germany. Well he thinks, for years he did his best to cover for them. And they'll just have to fight their own boughs. It's October 2016 in Salzburg, Austria. Volkswagen Porsche rises from an overstuffed chair and walks to the front door of his vast home. He peers through the people. Two reporters from Dish Beagle wait outside the door, with tape recorders and notebooks in hand. Porsche forces a smile onto his round, lying face and opens the door. Welcome, welcome to my home. But before you come in, make sure to get a picture of that. He points at his shiny 1963 Porsche, parked in the cobblestone driveway. The reporter glances at the classic car and shakes his head. No thank you, Mr. Porsche, just the interview, please. Porsche senses immediately that this isn't going to be an easy interview. It's not a puff piece. You'll have to be cunning and tactful as he proves to the reporters that Volkswagen is headed in the right direction under his guidance. Very well, please come in. The group enters and makes its way to the living room. Reflems crackle in the fireplace. It's here that another man rises to greet the reporters. Good afternoon. I'm Hans Michel Piesch. The reporter's nod. Porsche knows they don't need an introduction. Anyone who reports on cars knows him and Hans Michel is cousin. Their grandchildren, Affordinan Porsche, who founded the Porsche company and helped build Volkswagen in the 1930s. Today, the Porsche and Piesch families control Volkswagen, and the two cousins have emerged as the spokesman for the family. The four take their seats in a set of leather back chairs. The lead reporter dives in. Mr. Porsche, Mr. Piesch, was it a difficult decision to sit down for a joint interview on Porsche and on Piesch? That's a typical Spiegel question. You think our families have nothing better to do than fight with one another? You know that's not true. Okay, then. In typical Spiegel fashion, we would like to ask about current problems at the company. Your families are the largest shareholders of the Volkswagen Group. Volkswagen is currently embroiled in the biggest crisis in its history. What went wrong? Hans Michel answers and Porsche can tell he's choosing his words carefully. There are legal and technical questions to be resolved. We must recoup our financial losses and we're back to trust the company lost. Your decision to install Mateus Mueller as CEO was controversial. He previously held senior positions at Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche. How can he be a credible figure to lead the company out of the crisis? Porsche pauses before answering. He knows that right now he must defend Mueller. He has to show that Volkswagen is being run by steady hands, that the company and the two cousins watching over it are unshakable. Nothing can destroy Volkswagen. We need to look ahead. And for that we need someone with a requisite abilities. There was little discussion about the appointment of Mr. Mueller and this decision has proven to be the correct one. The reporters continue peppering the cousins with questions about the diesel scandal. And with each question Porsche remains unflinching. The two families will guide Volkswagen through the crisis he says. The company has a long, gilded history and in the years to come it will remain strong. The two families will make sure of it. Soon the interview comes to a close and Porsche and PS walk the reporters to the door. Porsche feels satisfied. Once again he's made it clear who really controlled Volkswagen. It's not the CEOs who come and go from time to time. It's not the other members of Volkswagen's board. The real power lies with the Porsche and PS families. And those two families will continue to shape Volkswagen from within. Even if it means taking ruthless action. It's December 2016 in Salisport, Austria. Third man, PS steps his foot on the gas pedal of his sports car, he zooms past Emerald Hills, which are dewy from the morning rain. PS is 79 years old, he still fit, trim. He has short, cropped grey hair. At times he may feel his age but he never accepts it. That's part of the reason why he still drives with the reckless confidence the man 60 years is junior. PS knows he's well over the speed limit, but he feels he's earned the right to drive where he wants as fast as he wants. This afternoon, PS, the brother of Hans Michel Piesch, is on his way to the police station. PS is known as one of the greatest living car executives of the last 100 years. In the 1960s, he ran Porsche's legendary racing program. And in the 70s, he transformed Audi into a luxury brand. He became CEO of Volkswagen in 93 and later served as chairman of the supervisory board. It was during this time that Piesch began mentoring a promising executive named Martin Vintercorn. Vintercorn shared Piesch's approach as an unapologetic leader. He seemed equally obsessed with dominating the auto industry. But once Vintercorn became CEO, Piesch began to see flaws in his protege, shortcomings and sloppiness he'd never tolerate in himself. Piesch's jaw tightens as he rounds a sharp corner. People confounds and enrages him that the board sided with Vintercorn when the big conflict finally arose. Piesch had tried to oust the CEO. He knew it was in Volkswagen's best interest that Vintercorn had to go. Yet, impossibly, the board had rallied behind Vintercorn and turned their back on Volkswagen's patriarch. Piesch promptly resigned. It was the first power struggle he had ever lost and he did not like the feeling. Piesch pulls up to the police station. Before he's even had a chance to turn off his engine, three investigators rush out to greet him. They bid him a good afternoon and thank him for coming in. The men lead Piesch into a small interrogation room and shut the door. Piesch takes stock of his surroundings. The investigator apologizes for the cramped quarters. It's the only room that's completely private. Piesch says it'll do and takes a seat. He leans forward. And then he tells the investigators he's happy to share with them whatever they'd like to know. The two policemen share a knowing look and the lead investigator replies that they're looking into the Volkswagen diesel program. Any helpful information would be greatly appreciated. Piesch leans back, strokes his chin and thinks about the year before. He says that he is no longer on the Volkswagen supervisory board, but last year, February 2015 to be exact, he still was. The investigators lean in and Piesch smiles. They're waiting for a silver bullet, something that will blow open the entire diesel scandal. Piesch continues and says that someone he doesn't remember who informed him there was a major problem with diesel emissions in America. Naturally, he was concerned. He mentioned the disturbing news to a few board members. And that's right, Piesch says he brought it up with Martin Vintercorn. The investigators look at each other in shock. Piesch hides a coy grin. He knows perfectly well just now. He's completely undercut Volkswagen's official statements. From day one, corporate officials, including Vintercorn, have claimed that no one in upper management knew about the defeat devices. The company blamed lower level engineers and said they'd gone rogue. The lead investigator asked Piesch what Vintercorn said in response. Piesch shrugs and replies, he told me not to worry about it. With that, Piesch says he'd really ought to be getting home. The investigators thank him for his time. Piesch exits the station, climbs back into a sports car. He smiles to himself as he drops his foot on the gas pedal and speeds away. The wind blows through his hair and Piesch feels alive and invigorated. Old Swaggin is a family business and nothing will destroy the Piesch or Porsche families, nor should anyone cross them or make foolish decisions. Because if they do, they'll end up just like Martin Vintercorn. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion, or you woke up in the morgue, or you were seriously injured, miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening, asks our listeners this very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening, brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus, and if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's January 7th, 2017. Oliver Schmidt stands in a gift shop in Miami International Airport. He holds an Epcot center magnet in his left hand, and a cartoonish map of Florida and his right. Schmidt used to be a manager at Volkswagen at the company's offices in Michigan. Normally he wouldn't care about souvenirs like these, but right now, on the verge of boarding a 10 hour flight back to Germany, it feels just a bit sentimental. He owns a home in Florida. It could be a very long time before he sets foot in the state again. Everyone had warned Schmidt not to return to the states at all, not after FBI officials had questioned him just before Christmas. His friends urged him to stay back in Germany. Schmidt told him not to worry. If the FBI wanted him, they would have nabbed him before when they were questioning him. So he decided to go back to the US for just a few days. It would be a farewell trip to America. Now his vacation is over, and it's not so easy to say goodbye. He thinks about the South Florida warmth and sunshine. Anything's about the blizzard that's probably blowing across Volsburg this very minute. He shutters. The line at the airport gift shop lurches forward, and Schmidt reaches the register. As the cashier rings up the souvenirs, Schmidt suddenly has a strange feeling as though someone is watching him. He scans the shop. There are a couple of families grabbing snacks and a customer shopping for t shirts. And Schmidt notices a man in a grey suit reading a magazine. But no one's looking at him. Schmidt tries to assure himself it was just his imagination. There's no reason to be nervous. Still, he can't shake the feeling. Something feels off, and his heart starts to pound. The cashier hands over the receipt and Schmidt collects his souvenirs. He makes a quick exit from the gift shop and heads toward his gate. His flight is boarding soon, so he quickens his pace. He's about ten yards from the gate when he suddenly stops. Two men and suits are hovering near the counter, talking with an airline agent. Schmidt's heart starts to pound. These men are wearing the same grey suits as the guy by the magazines. Schmidt makes a quick decision. He turns and heads in the opposite direction, back the way he came. He figures he can fly another day. For now, all that matters is getting out of the airport. He sees a crowd up ahead. If he can just get in the middle of it and blend in, he'll be safe. One of the men is yelling after him. Schmidt doesn't look back. He just puts one foot in front of the other as fast as he can. They converge on him from all sides. In identical grey suits, one grabs his arm. Get off me! Get off me! The other agent grabs his other arm. Stop! Stop! You have no right. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. What is this? What is this? You cannot afford an attorney one will be provided for you. Man flashes his FBI badge. Oliver Schmidt, you're under arrest for participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States government and violate the Clean Air Act. No, no, no, no. There's a mistake. This must be a mistake. I was already questioned. There weren't any charges. There are now charges were filed December 30th. No, I want my lawyer. You can call him from the corrections facility. Jail! No! No! Mr. Schmidt, it is what it is. We're going to take you into custody and keep you there. The judge thinks you might be a flight risk. Imagine that in an airport. Schmidt allows himself to be led through the terminal. There's no point in finding it anymore. He is about to become the first Volkswagen employee to be thrown behind bars for the diesel emissions scandal. It's January 11th, 2017. Cameras click as Attorney General Loretta Lynch enters the U.S. Department of Justice Pressroom in Washington, D.C. Lynch is ready for them. Her expression composed. She wears a dark jacket over a rose colored blouse. Lynch likes her attire to reflect her mood, especially when speaking publicly. Today, she's business light. But far from dour. What she's about to announce is a major step forward in the world. Lynch is joined on stage by senior officials from the Obama administration. She takes her place at the podium in front of the mounted Department of Justice Seal and steps up to the microphone. She announces that the federal government has reached an agreement with Volkswagen. This agreement includes civil and criminal penalties. Volkswagen will plead guilty to three felonies and settle for $4.3 billion. That payment is on top of the $15 billion it paid last year. But that's not the case. The U.S. government is also bringing criminal charges against six Volkswagen executives. One is Oliver Schmidt, who was apprehended in the Miami Airport. The other five men are for now in Germany. They were involved in engine development and government relations among other areas. Lynch steps aside. She lets the FBI assistant director, Andrew McCabe, sum it all up. This case is a great example of the fact that no corporation is too big. No corporation is too global and no person is beyond the law. Lynch then goes on to say that she's proud of what the Department of Justice has achieved. But she thinks there is still much work to be done. It is satisfying to have Oliver Schmidt in custody and James Leanne cooperating with their efforts. But she wants more. She wants the man who was at the top of the company when it decided to break the law. She wants Martine Ventracourt. It's April 13, 2018. But TAS Mueller walks into a boardroom at Volkswagen in Fulsburg, Germany. Several people are already seated and several trail him. The blinds are closed and the room is dim. Mueller glairs at each of the dozen or so board members in turn and takes particular note of Fulcang Porsche, Hans Michel Piersch. Their faces are impassive, cold. Something about all of this reminds Mueller of Caesar's final appearance in the Roman Senate. He sits down with a grimace and looks at his watch. The second's pass slowly. Board member coughs. Soon, a second board member says they should begin. Mueller offers him a nod and the meeting commences. One man points out that sales are steady. Another man talks about the current state of the 2020 models and says the designs are very promising. Volkswagen he adds is making excellent progress in its development of electric cars. Porsche thanks them for the updates. Then the room goes quiet again. Hans Michel Piersch says he understands that Mueller has something he would like to tell the board. Mueller knows that this is it. But he's not going to slink off tail between his legs. He stands. He reminds the group that he joined Volkswagen 40 years ago at the age of 25. He was just a kid then. A tool making a pretus. He wound up at Audi, then Porsche. He always loved cars. He wanted to work on them, build them, and drive them. He devoted his entire life to Volkswagen and Volkswagen rewarded his dedication. In 2015, the members of this board promoted him to CEO. He was the proudest moment of his life. Mueller stops momentarily. He notices that several of the board members are having trouble making eye contact. Cowards, he thinks. Cowards with short memories. They don't remember that it was he who steered the company through its greatest crisis. They don't remember that there was a time, just a few months ago, when the world was prepared to bury Volkswagen forever. Mueller saved them all. There were bumps along the way, of course. More charges against the company and allegations against Mueller personally. Then there was the regrettable matter of Christine Holman Denhardt. He had hired her to be the first owner of the company. He had hired her to be the first woman to serve on Volkswagen's management board. She was going to help reform the company's internal culture and its approach to business ethics. She was a nice woman and a smart one, but too zealous. She was fired and left the company last year. Mueller doesn't talk about those bumps out loud, of course. He refuses to make a scene of any kind. He decided, today, he will maintain his dignity. And finally, the time comes. He tells the room that it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as their CEO. But after much reflection, he's decided to explore new opportunities. Mueller looks down to his left, the man who will replace him. He tells the room that Habit Deese will make an excellent CEO. Deese will lead Volkswagen to unprecedented success in the years to come. Then Mueller makes it official. I hereby announce my resignation, effective immediately. Mueller sits down and Deese forces a smile on his face. Mueller, of course, didn't want to resign, but he had to contend with the cousins. Wolfgang Porcia and Hans Michel Piège. They made clear that he was too closely tied to the old Volkswagen, the one that gave birth to the diesel scandal. Mueller tried to fight, but was outnumbered. The two cousins said they wanted Mueller out and Deese in his place. The board gave in, and so Mueller had no choice. As Deese gives his speech, Mueller turns and surveys the room. And then he locks eyes with Hans Michel Piège. Piège has a triumph and twinkle in his eye. He grins arrogantly at Mueller, as if to say, better luck next time. And then he turns to listen to Deese's speech. Mueller clenches his jaws, and then the room seems to go quiet. He closes his eyes, and darkness feels like it's settling in. Mueller can sense more than ever that this is by no means a brand new day for Volkswagen. It's just another chapter in the same long story, one that never seems to change. Mueller opens his eyes and stares out the window, down at the city of Volkswagen. And he thinks to himself, I hope I'm wrong. The New York Times It's May 2018 at midnight. At his home in Frankfurt, Germany, New York Times Business reporter Jack Ewing leans back in his chair. He removes his glasses and rubs his eyes. He wonders when the call will come in. The night just keeps getting later. Ewing is an American, but he's lived in Europe for the last 25 years. When it comes to Volkswagen, he's usually close to the heart of the action. But there are other times when he feels very far away from the breaking news. Tonight is one of those nights. It's mid afternoon in America right now, and Ewing knows that something very big just happened there. But he needs the details before he can write the whole story. Ewing's phone rings just then, and he snatches it up. On the other end of the line is Neil Budet, another Times journalist. He's calling from the US. Budet tells Ewing that it's official. The US is going after Martin Vintercorn. The indictment was just unsealed and destroyed. Ewing lets out a low whistle. He's been waiting for this news for months now. And wonders what took them so long. Budet describes the specific allegations. The Department of Justice claims Vintercorn was told about the defeat device in 2014. They claim he helped facilitate a cover up. 2014 thinks Ewing. That's right around the time the West Virginia University team first discovered the diesels were polluting off the charts. So Vintercorn kept the real reason quiet. As they're wrapping up their call, Budet asks Ewing if they think they'll get him. It's a good question. He's not sure exactly how the legal cases will play out, both in the US and in Germany. Either way, Ewing wonders how long Vintercorn's story about rogue engineers hold up. It's February 2019 on an overcast day in Millford, Michigan. Hamlet Kampana sits at his desk at General Motors. The phone rings. It's his supervisor's assistant asking Kampana to head upstairs to the main conference room. His supervisor will be waiting there. Kampana pushes back from his desk slowly, a feeling of dread hitting him in his feet. He walks to the elevator wondering what this is all about. In some circles, Kampana is considered a hero for his work exposing Volkswagen back when he was at West Virginia University. But here at GM, where he's worked for five years, he's just another engineer in the admissions compliance department. He got this job shortly after completing his doctorate. What he did at WVU made him famous for a time, but that time feels long gone. People who saw him in newspapers back then might not even recognize him today. As a grad student, he was often clean, shaven with glasses. Now he wears contacts and has a full beard. Overall though, he's happy with how things turned out. His invention exposes perhaps the biggest crime in automotive history. It revealed just how far a car company might go to cheat the system. Kampana knows the world is a slightly safer place now because of his work. That's reward enough for him. He doesn't need the spotlight. Just a solid livelihood that allows him to do the work he loves. Which is why this phone call is so disconcerting. He can't think of the last time his supervisor invited an employee to the conference room to deliver good news. Still, Kampana tells himself to remain optimistic. No need to fear the worst. Not yet. Kampana emerges from the elevator and crosses over to the conference room. It's starkly furnished. There are a few chairs and a cheap table where his supervisor sits alone. She stands as Kampana enters. They shake hands, but the expression on her face is pained. Hello, Ameth. Thank you for coming up. Of course. They sit. The supervisor exhales slowly. Kampana's heart sinks. Ameth, you have been an exemplary employee. Truly exemplary. But this is a difficult time at GM. And as you're aware, we're having to do some restructuring. I'm sorry, but we're going to have to let you go. Kampana sits perfectly still. Not sure what to say. He clears his throat. And, well, it's unexpected. If I did anything wrong, I'd like you to tell me. Of course, no, it's nothing you did wrong. You've been great. Kampana frowns. He has to ask the obvious question. Would this happen to have anything to do with my past? Your past? Yes. I caused a little bit of trouble for Volkswagen if you remember. Oh, of course I remember. But I'm not sure what you're getting at. Come on. Many people around here are a little afraid of me. I'm not a professional whistleblower. If that's what you're worried about, I just do my job. Hey, Ameth, if you saw anything out of the ordinary around here, we'd want you to tell us this isn't personal. Nor does it have anything to do with your past. It's just the unfortunate reality of GM's strategic transformation. I see. And how many people are losing their jobs during this transformation? About 4,000. Well, that's a lot. If you say it's not personal, I guess I have to believe you. This puts me in a really tough position. I'm not a citizen. I work here on a work visa. Yes, we're aware. We can offer you two months pay and a ticket back to India. Kampana's size stares off, thinking about his life in America, which may soon come to an end. Hey, Ameth, I wish we didn't have to do this. Well, thank you for everything. Kampana can see that the supervisor wants to say more, but she can't. There's nothing more to say. So he stands and shakes her hand. Without another word, he turns and heads towards the elevator. On his way back to his desk, what was his desk, he considers the assertion that this wasn't personal. Kampana can't help a question this. It's possible he's just another victim of downsizing. Maybe GM took this opportunity to rid themselves of a potentially troublesome employee. Regardless, Kampana is proud of what he and his fellow grads do instead back at West Virginia University. He can't help smiling at the memory. Barely down the road in that basant, their testing equipment rattling and thumping with every bump, they change the world, and no one will ever be able to take that away from them. Kampana is prepared to leave GM today holding his head high. It was a privilege to be on the front lines, protecting the future of the planet. As an omission scientist, the battle he'll never stop fighting. It's April 2019 in Valsburg, Germany. Martijn Vintricorn stands on the back porch of his home and looks up at the sky. Creamy white clouds drift upon a sea of pure blue, it's quiet and peaceful out here. Vintricorn has lived in this house for years, but as the head of Volkswagen, he never had the time to enjoy it. But now, these long a few years later, he finally does. Vintricorn's phone rings. He answers, and it's his lawyer, Felix Dürer. Dürer cuts to the chase. German attorneys in Brownsfaga have broadened their investigation of Vintricorn and seek to nail him for fraud and false advertising. There is also a good chance that Ferdinand P.S. is cooperating with them, doing what he can to put Vintricorn behind bars. They say Vintricorn knew about the defeat devices. They say he masterminded the plot that led to the scandal. They say that he's a criminal. Vintricorn pauses for a moment, takes it all in. Birds chirp in the distance. Can they prove it? He asks. His lawyer replies that he doesn't think so. Vintricorn smiles and gazes across his beautiful lawn. Good, he says, and hangs up the phone. On August 25, 2017, engineer James Leang was sentenced to 40 months behind bars. Later that year, Oliver Schmidt was sentenced to seven years in order to pay a $400,000 fine. Martijn Vintricorn is still under indictment in Germany and the United States. No warrant has been issued for his arrest, and he continues to deny any wrongdoing. Alberto Ayala left his job as head of emissions testing at the California Air Resources Board in 2017. He is currently an air quality official in Sacramento. Hameth Kappana returned to Bangalore, India in 2019. He spends his time jogging and doing freelance work, helping study and improve local air quality. He considers coming back to the US one day as a postdoctoral researcher, but he says he doesn't mind working anywhere if it means he's doing what's right. And he'd like Bangalore's air to be clean so he can go jogging without issues. The Volkswagen Diesel Emission Scandal is still ongoing. In May 2019, the company agreed to pay a $600 million fine for putting defeat devices in Porsche Diesel engines. That December, German authorities rated Volkswagen's offices in Volkswagen, where they searched for incriminating documents pertaining to emissions fraud. Volkswagen is still engaged in settlement talks with prosecutors in Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The company has paid $23 billion to resolve lawsuits and criminal charges in the US. As of today, the total financial toll of the scandal for Volkswagen is $33 billion in counting. Environmental research letters, a scientific journal, attempted to calculate the health costs of the scandal. It estimates that between 2008 and 2015, Volkswagen Diesel's emitted enough air pollution to eventually cause 59 premature deaths. Next, on American scandal, we speak with Cynthia Giles, a former senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency. As head of the EPA's enforcement office, Giles helped negotiate a major settlement with Volkswagen as the automaker faced fallout from its diesel emission scandal. From wondering, this is American scandal. Just a quick note about our reenactments. We can't always know exactly what was said, but everything in our show is based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindy Graham, for airship, sound design by Derek Barrett. This episode was written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Malsman, produced by Gabe Riven. Execute producers are Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonvokas for wandering.