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Volkswagen: The Diesel Charade

Guest speaker

Daniel Jacobs (University of Califórnia)


EEG UMinho & Online


Start31.05.2023 13:15End31.05.2023 14:15

Event summary


A leader in tackling sustainability issues since attending the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Dan Jacobs has lectured to a variety of audiences on five continents. After serving as a law clerk to a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, Dan joined the U.S. Department of Justice, where he won awards as lead counsel in environmental enforcement and civil rights cases across the country. Next, Dan joined the State Department, where he earned an award for cases arbitrated in the Hague. Then, as an Office Director and Senior Negotiator in the Economic, Energy, and Business Bureau, he led U.S. delegations in intellectual property and investment treaty negotiations. Following his distinguished public service, Dan launched his equally accomplished academic career. At American University, he was the founding faculty director of the first interdisciplinary masters degree program in sustainability management in a U.S. business school, which he led to a #1 sustainability ranking by Bloomberg Businessweek. As a faculty member at Loyola Marymount University, Dan spearheaded its effort to obtain official NGO observer status at UN climate talks, and served on the faculty committee that founded its Institute of Business Ethics and Sustainability. Now Senior Counsel in the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Dan he manages high-profile environmental impact litigation. In his private practice, he has argued twice recently before the U.S. Court of Appeals. He also serves as an instructor for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Dan is the author of BP Blowout: Inside the Gulf Oil Disaster, the #1 featured book published by the Brookings Institution Press in Fall 2016, and “The Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Scandal and Accountability,” the cover story of the July 2019 edition of The CPA Journal. He also has authored a law review article, book chapters, and case studies for a premier business school textbook. As a legal commentator on environmental issues, Dan has appeared on the BBC World News, and regularly in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, London Times, and Guardian. While obtaining degrees from Middlebury College, Cambridge University, and Duke Law School, Dan studied three foreign languages and competed in four club sports. He is an avid traveler, hiker, cyclist, and swimmer.


In 2007, with a new CEO at the helm, Volkswagen launched “Strategy 2018,” an aggressive new initiative with goals such as doubling annual vehicle sales, in order to become the leading automobile manufacturer in the world. A key part of that strategy was vastly expanding diesel vehicle sales in the United States. To accomplish its goals, in 2008 Volkswagen rolled out a new technology that it claimed would achieve high fuel economy and performance while meeting strict new U.S. emissions standards. The technology seemed to require “magical thinking,” at least in engineering circles. The magical technology was really part of an elaborate fraud. Volkswagen installed defeat devices in its diesel vehicles, programming them so that their emission control systems satisfied emission limits only when in test mode. When on the road, the systems were disabled. Knowing that the diesel vehicles would evade U.S. emissions standards, Volkswagen misrepresented them to regulators and customers. When the authorities finally caught on, Volkswagen destroyed evidence of the fraud. Criminal and civil charges were brought, and various legal proceedings continue to this day around the world. The cost of the fraud to Volkswagen is tens of billions of Euros and climbing.


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