Martin Winterkorn (credit: GovernmentZA)

The New York Times has obtained internal e-mails and memos from Volkswagen Group that may suggest that top executives within the company were aware as early as 2014 that many of their diesel vehicles had illegal emissions control-cheating software.

Volkswagen has maintained that only a small number of engineers knew about the emissions-cheating software that has been found on Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche diesel vehicles. The company has said that Martin Winterkorn, the CEO of Volkswagen Group when then scandal broke, did not know that any illegal software existed on US cars. Winterkorn stepped down from his position shortly after the news of the company’s wrongdoing broke.

If executives were aware that their cars had emissions system cheating software on them before the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified the company that it was in violation of federal rules, Volkswagen Group could face harsher fines and penalties for failing to disclose to shareholders issues that could materially affect the company’s stock price.

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