Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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DA O’Malley Announces Outcome in Environmental Protection Lawsuit Against AutoNation

A judge in San Jose has ordered more than $2 million in civil penalties to be paid by the operators of 57 dealerships and collision centers in California belonging to AutoNation, the country’s largest retailer of new automobiles.

The fines are part of a $3.38 million settlement of a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley and seven other California District Attorneys. The defendants, who operate as subsidiaries of AutoNation, were accused by the prosecutors of illegally disposing of hazardous waste and of violating laws related to the storage of hazardous materials and the disposal of customer records.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates my office’s continued commitment to making the environment cleaner and safer for the citizens of Alameda County and California by preventing hazardous automotive waste from contaminating our natural resources,” said District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley.

“We are proud to work with other district attorney offices and environmental regulators statewide to enforce California’s environmental laws.”

In addition to paying $2.1 million in penalties, the defendants agreed to pay $380,000 in costs and to spend $900,000 on projects designed to enhance their compliance with hazardous waste laws. As a term of the settlement, the AutoNation dealerships in California now have a full-time environmental director who will monitor their environmental compliance and training.

The stipulated judgment resolves a case that began in 2013, when inspectors from the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health spotted hazardous waste violations inside the service departments of several AutoNation dealerships. District Attorney investigators in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties then conducted a string of undercover inspections of the dealerships’ trash containers, which revealed the illegal disposal of hazardous automotive fluids, non-empty aerosols such as brake parts cleaner, used oil filters, electronic waste, and, at one dealership, used motor oil.

Invoices and other documents containing personal customer information were also found in the trash. State law requires businesses to take reasonable steps when disposing of customer records by shredding, redacting, or erasing the personal information. As part of the settlement, the court ordered AutoNation dealerships to make resources available for document shredding at each dealership and to train all employees who handle customer records on the requirements under the law.

The case was brought by the District Attorney’s offices of Alameda, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Placer, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, and Ventura counties, where the dealerships and collision centers are located. AutoNation cooperated with the District Attorneys’ investigation and took steps to improve its compliance with the environmental and consumer protection laws brought to its attention by the prosecutors.

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Posted on Feb 26, 2018