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Mississippi gets cut of emission standards settlement

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Mississippi will receive a total of $770,540 from two separate multistate settlements reached between Attorney General Jim Hood, 51 attorneys general, Fiat Chrysler, and engineering company Bosch over the companies’ alleged undermining of auto emissions regulations for more than a decade.

The settlements, which are separate but related, stem from a case concerning software emissions equipment. The equipment, known as a “defeat device,” was intended to measure the amount of pollution released by a car and alert when the emissions were higher than industry standards. Bosch supplied defeat devices to Fiat Chrysler who manipulated the devices, causing the emissions to test improperly in new vehicles, therefore allowing a vehicle to pass an emissions test when it would have otherwise failed. These devices were only placed in diesel vehicles. General Hood alleges that Bosch continued to assist Fiat Chrysler as they implemented the defeat devices and concealed their misconduct from regulators and the public.

The attorneys general allege that Fiat Chrysler cheated on federal and state emissions tests by calibrating the vehicles’ software to conceal that the vehicles emitted higher than permitted levels of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) in real-world driving conditions, and misled consumers by falsely claiming the “Eco-Diesel”-branded Jeep SUVs and Ram 1500 trucks were environmentally friendly and compliant with the law in all 50 states. There were 728 vehicles affected in Mississippi.

“Corporations have a responsibility to ensure regulatory and legal compliance in the automotive industry, and this settlement establishes the important precedent that those who knowingly go along with their clients’ wrongful conduct will be held accountable,” General Hood said. “Knowingly misleading innocent consumers is a low point of greed for companies, and I’m glad these companies are not only changing their practices but properly reimbursing their customers through a private class action suit.”

The total settlement amount to all participating states is $72.5 million with Fiat Chrysler and $98.7 million from Bosch. In Mississippi, Fiat Chrysler will pay the state $455,000 in monetary payments under Mississippi’s consumer protection laws for deceptively and unfairly marketing, selling and leasing the vehicles to consumers. Bosch will pay $315,540. The Bosch agreement also includes precedent-setting injunctive terms and requires Bosch to maintain robust processes to monitor compliance and to refuse to accommodate requests for software development and programming that could result in the installation of defeat device software. Fiat Chrysler will be prohibited from engaging in future unfair or deceptive acts and practices in connection with its dealings with consumers and require Fiat Chrysler to carry out its obligations under a related class action settlement agreement in the Multidistrict Litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which includes restitution.

The proposed settlements with Fiat Chrysler follow earlier comprehensive settlements reached between Mississippi, along with other state, federal and private actors, and Volkswagen for equipping, marketing, selling and leasing more than 570,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel vehicles with illegal defeat devices. Under those settlements, Volkswagen paid the state of Mississippi monetary payments of $2.5 million, fixed or repurchased the affected vehicles, and paid restitution to Mississippi consumers.

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