Former FBI director Robert S. Mueller will serve as settlement master for the hundreds of consolidated cases in California federal court that seek damages from Volkswagen over its use of illegal software to cheat U.S. emissions standards. U.S. District Judge Charles S. Breyer lauded Mueller for his “integrity, good judgment, and relevant experience,” noting that the former FBI head also served as a U.S attorney in California’s Northern District. Judge Breyer has this to say:
There is an urgent need to determine if all or some of the pending matters can be resolved by the parties sooner rather than later. [Mueller’s] government and private practice experience makes him uniquely qualified to work with and earn the trust of the parties.
Those parties include, not only the German automaker and the large number of Volkswagen owners and dealers who have filed claims, but also the federal government and state attorneys general. Mueller became director of the FBI exactly one week before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and held the post through 2013. That made him the longest-serving director since J. Edgar Hoover. He is now a partner with the WilmerHale law firm. Judge Breyer noted that Mueller won’t make any decisions as settlement master, but will instead “facilitate settlement discussion” in a case that already involves more than 500 Plaintiffs and could affect more than 500,000 Americans.
Volkswagen has admitted fault and revealed that the software came preloaded in millions of its diesel vehicles around the world. Interestingly, Volkswagen has blamed a handful of managers for the decision. Two CEOs have also resigned in the wake of the scandal. As we have reported, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the claims against Volkswagen in California federal court in December.
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