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Fiat Chrysler Reportedly Nears Deal To End U.S. Diesel-Rigging Criminal Probe

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) is nearing a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department that would end a two-year criminal investigation into whether it knowingly sold diesel vehicles that violated clean-air rules, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The resolution would include a financial penalty in line with Fiat Chrysler's guidance to investors. The company is also getting closer to settling related civil litigation over diesel-rigging allegations, the report said. Fiat Chrysler set aside $810 million in October for expenses related to all diesel probes.

The criminal settlement could be announced as soon as this month. The company would be required to admit wrongdoing, the report said. Details of the resolution are still being finalized and could change.

Prosecutors are using a similar fraud case against Volkswagen AG as a template for the Fiat Chrysler settlement that is still being finalized. Among the terms, Fiat Chrysler would be required to hire an independent monitor to oversee the carmaker's compliance programs, the report said.

The Justice Department is still considering whether to bring criminal charges against individuals, the other person said. The U.S. charged eight people in the Volkswagen case, including former Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn.

The Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board in January 2017 alleged Fiat Chrysler sold 104,000 diesel-powered SUVs and pickups that violated U.S. emissions regulations. The regulators said 3.0-liter diesel engines used on some Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 models contained pollution-control software that violated emissions rules.

In May 2017, a few months after prosecutors opened a criminal investigation, the Justice Department filed a civil case against Fiat Chrysler alleging violations of the Clean Air Act.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it rigged some 11 million vehicles worldwide to pass emissions tests, sending shock waves through the industry and costing the German carmaker about $30 billion in fines, settlements and other costs.

Volkswagen pleaded guilty in Detroit in 2017 to conspiring to defraud regulators, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The scandal has hurt demand for diesel cars and put other manufacturers under a cloud of suspicion and regulatory scrutiny.

The U.S. investigation of Fiat Chrysler is expected to produce a smaller monetary penalty than the one levied against Volkswagen, in part because the company's alleged violations involve far fewer vehicles.

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