Government representatives in the case against German automaker Volkswagen (VW) are considering whether to let the company pursue a deferred prosecution agreement as it determined criminal liability following another round of investigations.
The option will allow the government to go easy on VW by dismissing charges if the company follows the settlement terms, sources close to the negotiations said in a report.
In the past two years, Toyota and General Motors have pursued similar avenues with the Justice Department over product safety lapses. Both companies have pledged reforms to make up for those lapses.
However, the Justice Department is not dismissing the possibility of seeking a guilty plea from the auto maker after it found VW liable for criminal wrongdoing for wire fraud and concealing information from the government over the emissions software cheating scandal, which investigations revealed started almost a decade ago.
A government appointed law firm is currently reviewing 1.5 million documents related to the case.
Both parties expect to reach a settlement within the year, although sources say the schedule could slide.
The company has already agreed to pay an initial $15 billion settlement a few months back to the government and to individual car buyers and dealers.
The software in question allowed VW diesel vehicles to emit 40 times more than the emissions limit prescribed by US environmental regulations.