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Dominos Start to Fall at VW

September 27, 2016, 3:40 PM UTC

Of course leaders, like the rest of us, should never lie, nor should they hide the truth when doing so would be unethical – a judgment they must make every day. But sometimes they do lie or unethically conceal the truth, apparently betting they’ll get away with it. It’s a risky bet:

-The “Bridgegate” trial is turning up the heat on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former aides. In many scandals, the truth comes out in the same way: Prosecutors assemble evidence against one player, who pleads guilty to charges and agrees to testify for the prosecution. That testimony is then used to implicate higher-ups, who agree to testify, and so on. The star witness in this ridiculous but deadly serious tale is David Wildstein, a former official of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who went to high school with Christie. In a trial now playing out in Newark, he’s testifying that the two defendants, a former Port Authority official and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, knew all about his plan to create an epic multi-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, at the approach to the George Washington Bridge, in order to punish the town’s mayor for not endorsing Christie.

Wildstein has testified that he was Christie’s “bad cop” and described “the one-constituent rule” that “the only person [a Port Authority employee] needed to make happy was Governor Christie.” Christie has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case so far, but the prosecutor in the current case said, startlingly, that Christie knew about the plan. The two defendants are accused of conspiracy, wire fraud, and other crimes. You can’t help wondering if testimony yet to come may yet implicate Christie – and if so, how that might affect Donald Trump, whose transition committee he heads.

-Yesterday’s abrupt resignation of a high-level Audi executive may be only the first domino to fall after a lower-level Volkswagen engineer pleaded guilty earlier this month in connection with the emission cheating scandal. James Liang submitted the first guilty plea by an individual in the case. No connection between that and the resignation of Audi technical development chief Stefan Knirsch has been revealed, but Audi deputy chairman Berthold Huber made clear that the departure was connected to the scandal: “We have no regard for big names and take action if necessary” to clear up the scandal, he said. “This departure underlines our position.”

High-level VW executives have steadfastly denied any knowledge of the defeat device, but prosecutors in the U.S. have already stated their belief that top executives did know about it. Now we’ll see if Liang’s guilty plea begins the classic cascade of revelations, just as Wildstein’s appears to be doing in New Jersey.

The same process seems to be playing out in Brazil’s mushrooming corruption scandal. Who will be hit next? Maybe Wells Fargo? Some leaders get away with dishonesty, but once prosecutors become interested, it’s often just a matter of time before the ugly truth finds its way into the light.


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What We're Reading Today

Former Wells Fargo employees sue for losing their job...
...because they wouldn't break the law. The class-action suit represents any employee that was punished over the past 10 years for not reaching sales quotas because they wouldn't cheat by opening fake customer accounts. They're asking for $2.6 billion. It adds another hurdle to CEO John Stumpf's response to the scandal, as the former employees label the sales targets "unrealistic." NPR

Pfizer to remain as one company
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U.S. weighs huge criminal fine for VW 
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Satya Nadella talks up AI 
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At the Presidential Debate

Clinton goads Trump
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Ford defends itself against Trump claims
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Fact-checking the debate 
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Jason Goldberger, Target's chief digital officer, has left the company.  Fortune

Charles Walgreen III, grandson of the founder of the Walgreen drug chain and former head of the company, died on Monday. He was 80.  Chicago Tribune

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Quote of the Day

"The biggest victims of this scheme are a class of people that nobody else has talked about...The biggest victims of Wells Fargo's scam [are] the class of victims that were fired because they did not meet these cross sell quotas by engaging in the fraudulent scam that would line the CEO's pockets." -- From the lawsuit filed by two employees on behalf of Wells Fargo workers that were punished for not meeting sales quotas, while refusing to cheat by opening accounts without customer knowledge.  NPR

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