March 14, 2016 / 9:40 PM / 4 years ago

Former employee accuses VW of evidence destruction in lawsuit

(Reuters) - A fired Volkswagen Group of America employee has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the German automaker (VOWG_p.DE), accusing it of deleting documents and obstructing justice in the ongoing diesel emissions investigations.

Daniel Donovan, who worked as an information technology employee in VW’s general counsel office since 2008, claims in the suit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court in Michigan last week that he was fired in December “because of his refusal to participate in a course of action” that would destroy evidence and obstruct justice.

Donovan alleges he was fired because he refused to participate in destroying evidence in ongoing probes of VW by the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency over software that allowed diesel vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution in real world driving.

Donovan’s suit also claims because he was fired because was about to report the destruction of evidence to federal officials.

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in a statement Monday the “circumstances of Mr. Donovan’s departure were unrelated to the diesel emissions issue. We believe his claim of wrongful termination is without merit.”

A lawyer for Donovan, Sam Morgan, declined to comment.

The Justice Department in January sued VW for up to $46 billion for violating U.S. environmental laws and has an ongoing criminal investigation.

Last month, a federal judge set a March 24 deadline for VW to state whether it has found an emissions fix for 600,000 diesel vehicles that is acceptable to U.S. regulators.

VW has been in intensive talks with the Justice Department, EPA and California Air Resource Board in recent weeks and it is unclear if it will be able to find an acceptable fix.

VW has said previously it was considering buybacks as part of a settlement, a move that could cost it billions. It could also offer hefty incentives to prod owners to get their vehicles repaired if regulators approve a fix.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer last month noted that VW had admitted in September to improper emissions. “Six months is long enough” to determine if this is a fixable problem, Breyer said.

VW and its Audi and Porsche brands continue to be barred from selling any new 2016 diesel models in the United States. VW also faces more than 500 lawsuits from U.S. owners and is the subject of similar investigations on emissions around the world.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Alan Crosby

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