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The Volkswagen emissions scandal: what's next?

Most readers of our environmental law blog likely know something about global carmaker Volkswagen's current financial and reputational woes owing to the company's huge emissions-related scandal. And there is no doubt at all that they know a great deal about the company's plight if they own a Volkswagen vehicle.

As a recent Bloomberg report notes, the German carmaker went public last year with the stunning news that "it rigged the exhaust system in 11 million diesel cars worldwide to feign compliance with global emissions standards."

Understandably, that has brought a backlash, which will likely have the company reeling for years.

In the United States, a huge amount of litigation against Volkswagen has been consolidated before one judge in a California federal court. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer is expected to soon receive and evaluate the details of an agreement that the beleaguered auto manufacturer and American regulators have tentatively inked. The pact reportedly requires Volkswagen to set aside about $6.5 billion to American vehicle owners -- to both fix or purchase back their cars -- and another $3.5 billion that will be paid as fines to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, respectively. Neither of those agencies has yet definitively signed off on the agreement.

And that might ultimately be the case, too, with Breyer, who has the final say on the matter.

"There's just no precedent for what happens if there's not a fix," notes one commentator.

Indeed, Volkswagen is in uncharted waters. There are reportedly about half a million affected vehicles in the United States. Bloomberg states that the company has thus far put aside more than $18 billion "to cover the costs of the scandal."

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