I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
~ Michael Jackson - Man In the Mirror
After reading several news accounts this past week, I began wondering if executives at Volkswagen had ever heard the names: Geng Jinping and Zhang Yujun.
According to those news reports, Volkswagen has been fabricating more than just automobiles and trucks. It appears that over the past 8 years, VW has been duping consumers and regulators as to the actual engine emissions of their diesel engines by inserting a sophisticated software code into the onboard computer that controls the operation of the vehicle while under test.
This special code detects when the car is in "test mode" (based on several standard tests used at most smog testing centers). Once the car recognizes that it is under test, it purposely modifies the engine controls in order to pass the emission tests being administered by reducing engine performance and optimizing the exhaust characteristics allowing the car to pass the tests.
However, once the car is back on the road, the engine controls are reset and the cars now spew out 10-40 times the legal amount of emissions out into the atmosphere.
Pretty slick idea... well... that is until you are caught.
The EPA isn’t laughing and neither are the regulatory agencies of the EU. In fact, as it turns out, VW is now liable for up to $37,500 in fines per vehicle... just in the United States alone.
So how many vehicles are we talking about here?
Let’s see... during the 8-year time period that VW was purposely falsifying test results, they managed to sell just under 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. which puts them at risk for $18B (with a B) in fines to the EPA... plus what it’ll cost them in a recall action to actually fix the vehicles.
This seems like a pretty large number.
However, when compared to the 7 million cars the company sold in Europe and the propensity of the EU to levy even larger fines than the U.S., it is quite possible that VW liabilities could outweigh their assets (meaning that they would essentially be insolvent).
More than likely, the fines will be mitigated to a much smaller number based on VW creating a plan to remedy the problems in their existing vehicles.
So is VW an evil corporation; one that will do anything to create profits for their shareholders and large bonuses for their executives?
Before answering, consider that VW employs almost 600,000 people worldwide, almost all of whom had no idea that this environmental scam was taking place at the company. By closing down VW, you most likely would be penalizing hard-working honest people just trying to earn a decent living.
This is not to say that all VW employees are innocent. There were indeed executives and engineers who were privy to this scandalous behavior. They are the ones who acted out of greed and contempt yet there is a good chance that these people will be given a slap on the wrist with the opportunity to resign with their pension and golden parachutes intact.
This brings me back to Mr. Jinping and Mr. Yujun.
Zhang Yujun was a large farmer and Geng Jinping was a salesman both of whom produced and sold "protein powder" to the Sanlu Group based in Shijiazhuang, China, and used to "fortify" watered down milk and baby formula manufactured by the company.
As it so happens, the protein powder being sold to Sanlu was not really rich in protein but was also laced with melamine, an industrial compound used in the manufacturing of plastics. One of the particular chemical properties of melamine enables it to emulate a protein molecule and mask its hazardous properties during standardized chemical testing.
This melamine tainted substance was added to milk and baby formula manufactured and marketed by Sanlu.
Over the course of two years, 300,000 cases of melamine poisoning were reported throughout China, with 54,000 of the cases being infants. There were 154 cases of acute kidney failure and six people ultimately died due to complications due to the melamine infested products.
Although there were reports of questionable milk products, Sanlu ignored these reports and continued to manufacture and sell their tainted products to the public and went as far as bribing government officials to keep the reports quiet.
Shortly after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were completed, an investigative report was published, publically indicting Sanlu. Only after the release of this report and a full government inquiry did Sanlu issue a complete recall of all products.
Due to the nature of the scandal (and to save face in the eyes of the public), criminal charges were files against farmers producing the contaminated protein powder and against executives of the Sanlu company.
Yujun and Jinping were summarily executed after being found guilty of causing six deaths due to their tainted products. In all, 34 people were jailed for their various roles in the cover-up.
More recently here in America, Parnell Stewart, CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in shipping peanut butter knowingly contaminated from salmonella bacteria. Two other executives have also been sentenced to prison in their connection with this case.
Now I’m not advocating that the death penalty be applied to VW executives who knowingly and willfully deceived pollution control regulators, but there should be individuals held accountable for their irresponsible illegal actions.
Unfortunately the people most likely who will end up paying for these sins will be the shareholders, front-line employees, and the current owners of VW vehicles who just saw their car’s resale value plummet this past week.
Corporations are not simply inanimate things... they are made up of individual people who are ultimately personally responsible for what the company makes, sells, does, represents, warrants, and stands for.
It still boggles my mind that after the great financial melt-down of 2008, not a single individual person has been prosecuted in connection with the unlawful practices that ultimately created the financial crisis that caused so much pain and suffering for the working people.
Perhaps the justice department believes that if they started prosecuting everyone with a tie to the crash of 2008, there would be no one left on Wall Street since the entire population of South Manhattan would have been incarcerated for their particular role.
Integrity is defined (by me) as doing the right thing... even when no one is looking.
There are billions of individuals inhabiting the earth who have an incredible amount of personal integrity... and then there are a few who have none.
Those are the people we should be holding accountable for the actions that harm us all and give the human race a bad reputation for being morally corrupt when in fact they are mostly good people...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we stand behind everything that we do and take full responsibility for our actions... from the top to the bottom.
Jim Kalb President
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