Volkswagen will spend nearly $15 billion in a civil settlement with the U.S. government over its emissions cheating, but it seems like its expenses here could still go up. Investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice have found evidence of criminal acts in VW's scandal, according to a published Monday afternoon. This will more than likely lead to criminal charges on top of VW's civil penalties.
Federal prosecutors reportedly haven't decided which charges to pursue against VW and its employees, though they are already in settlement talks with the company. The aim is for a settlement to be reached by the end of the year, but the WSJ reports that the settlement could take until 2017 to finalize.
Complicating matters is the fact that many VW employees responsible for the scandal live in Germany, which would require them to be extradited to the U.S. if they faced criminal charges. The DoJ has yet to decide whether it wants to press charges against these individuals.
It's hard to guess exactly how large VW's criminal penalties will be, but it's expected to exceed over unintended acceleration. For what it's worth, the DoJ is reportedly happy with VW's civil settlement with the U.S. government, and that could lower its criminal penalties somewhat.
VW's civil penalties–the aforementioned $15 billion settlement additional fines from the state of California–pertain to environmental damage caused by the emissions-cheating TDI vehicles, as well as advertising that misled customers into thinking they were buying low-emissions vehicles. Criminal charges, on the other hand, have to do with specific acts of law-breaking by VW employees.
It sounds as though talks between the DoJ and VW are still in their preliminary stages, so it could be a while before we hear about the specific charges against the company and/or its employees. We do know things are going to get increasingly expensive for VW, though.
This story was last updated at 8/15/16 at 4:41 p.m. ET.