Volkswagen's $2.8 billion criminal penalty gets official approval

Volkswagen’s criminal penalty for its emissions scandal is getting closer to reality.

A federal judge in Detroit has approved a $2.8 billion criminal penalty against Volkswagen (VLKAY) for cheating on diesel emissions tests. Federal Judge Sean Cox made the ruling Friday, six weeks after the German automaker pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice. 

Cox had wanted more time to consider the plea deal and fine negotiated by VW and the U.S. Justice Department.

The German automaker’s efforts to cheat on federal and state emissions tests have led to its agreement to pay a total of $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. That number includes the $2.8 billion in criminal penalties as well as $1.5 billion to resolve environmental, customs and financial claims. Volkswagen, which pleaded guilty to three felony counts, will be on probation for three years and will be overseen by a corporate compliance monitor for that time, the Department of Justice said earlier this year

In a statement after the ruling, Volkswagen said it “deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel matter.”

“The agreements that we have reached with the U.S. government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear,” the statement said, in part.

About 590,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. were sold that included a so-called defeat device to make their emissions seem lower than they were on tests mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

VW admits that nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. were programmed to turn on pollution controls during testing and off while on the road.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board approved a fix for around 67,000 of the 475,000 Volkswagens and Audis with 2-liter diesel engines that were programmed to cheat on U.S. emissions tests. The company has also bought back or repaired hundreds of thousands of cars impacted by the cheat. 

Separately, VW is spending $11 billion to buy back cars and offer other compensation. Seven employees have also been charged.