Who will oversee Volkswagen's overseers?

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, here's one worth a thousand times that.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, here’s one worth a thousand times that.

It’s a shot of three Volkswagen board members, gathered for a press conference to announce the resignation of VW’s CEO. He had just been forced out by the auto giant’s scandal of having rigged its diesel cars with secret software so the vehicles could spew 4,000 percent(!) more toxic pollutants into the air than allowed by law.

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The picture showed the lead VW spokesman looking like he was gagging, as though he’d just swallowed a live toad. One grim-faced fellow board member was glaring at the gagger in ill-disguised disgust, and the other is nervously looking straight into the photographer’s camera, as if pleading: “Please tell me this isn’t happening, and please, please keep me out of the picture.”

It’s a perfect portrait of a shameful corporate crime, with these highly-paid overseers essentially confessing that corporations don’t commit crimes – their executives do. Yet the three board members still played the corporate game, referring to Volkswagen’s deliberate deception of millions of car buyers as “irregularities” and suggesting that some mysterious villains had installed the malicious software without the top bosses knowing it.

Horsefeathers! Eleven million VWs and Audis were tampered with in the past six years. Either these “overseers” knew what was going on, or they’ve been derelict in their sworn duty to prevent corporate abuse. Volkswagen has long been known for strict, top-down decision making, with even minor matters requiring the okay of its governing officials. And VW’s premeditated, systemic betrayal of consumer trust, plus its flagrantly-illegal poisoning of our air for six years, is hardly a minor matter. No wonder the photogenic blame-dodgers looked like deer caught in a VW’s headlights.

“Rigged Emissions Tests Topple Volkswagen Chief,” The New York Times, September 24, 2015.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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