VW investors seek $11 bln damages over dieselgate scandal

A picture taken on September 10, 2018 shows news vans parked outside the Stadthalle venue in Braunschweig, northern Germany, on the first day of the model case proceedings in Germany against German car maker Volkswagen (VW) over its cheating in emissions tests involving millions of diesel cars. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
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VW investors seek $11 bln damages over dieselgate scandal

  • VW shares lost up to 37% of their value in the days after authorities exposed illegal levels of pollution emitted from its diesel cars
  • The plaintiffs say VW failed in its duty to inform investors about the financial impact of the scandal

BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany: Investors took Volkswagen to court on Monday to seek 9.2 billion euros ($10.6 billion) in compensation for the hit to the carmaker’s share price from its diesel emissions scandal, although the judge said some claims could be time-barred.
Shareholders representing 1,670 claims are seeking compensation over the scandal, which broke in September 2015 and has cost Volkswagen (VW) 27.4 billion euros in penalties and fines so far.
It is likely that only some of the claims will be taken into account due to the statute of limitations, presiding judge Christian Jaede told the Braunschweig higher regional court as proceedings got under way, without giving a figure.
The case is so complicated that the court does not want to pin itself down, with many legal questions to be clarified, Jaede added.
The plaintiffs say VW failed in its duty to inform investors about the financial impact of the scandal, which became public only after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a “notice of violation” on Sept. 18, 2015.
Had investors known about VW’s criminal activities in rigging emissions tests, they may have sold shares earlier or not made purchases, thereby avoiding losses on their shareholdings, the plaintiffs argue.
VW shares lost up to 37 percent of their value in the days after authorities exposed illegal levels of pollution emitted from VW diesel cars.
WHO KNEW WHAT, WHEN?
“VW should have told the market that they cheated and generated risk worth billions,” said Andreas Tilp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
“We believe that VW should have told the market no later than June 2008 that they could not make the technology that they needed in the United States.”
VW’s decision between 2005 and 2007 to install cheating software in diesel cars was illegal, but it is not clear that it was taken to keep investors in the dark, judge Jaede said.
However, Tilp said VW should have made public it could not meet US emissions standards by legal means, adding that if the court did not see it this way, it would limit the plaintiffs’ case.
VW has admitted systematic emissions cheating, but denies wrongdoing in matters of regulatory disclosure.
“This case is mainly about whether Volkswagen complied with its disclosure obligations to shareholders and the capital markets,” VW lawyer Markus Pfueler told the court. “We are convinced that this is the case.”
VW says the EPA’s issuance of the notice of violation was not in keeping with how US authorities had handled similar cases involving other carmakers.
Because other carmakers had reached a settlement for emissions cheating without an EPA notice of violation, and because VW was in talks about reaching a settlement, VW’s board did not see the need to brief investors before September 2015, the carmaker said in a filing with the Braunschweig court.
Judge Jaede said critical to the case was the period from early 2014, when he said VW employees had learned that US tests showed its diesel cars emitted far more toxic nitrogen oxide on the road than under laboratory conditions.
Plaintiffs, including fund management firm Deka, allege managers below management board level, including divisional heads, knew early on about deliberate and systematic cheating.
The company was therefore aware of criminal activity and so investors should have been warned earlier, the plaintiffs say.
VW already made substantial provisions in late 2015 to cover vehicle recalls, and because previous fines by US authorities for similar violations were below $200 million, VW said there was no need to inform investors under German law.
So board members at the time, including current chief executive Herbert Diess and Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, did not violate disclosure rules, VW said in its defense document filed with the court.
($1 = 0.8648 euros)


Porsche first German carmaker to abandon diesel engines

Updated 23 September 2018
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Porsche first German carmaker to abandon diesel engines

  • The company would concentrate on its core strength, ‘powerful petrol, hybrid and, from 2019, purely electric vehicles’
  • But Porsche promised it would keep servicing diesel models on the road now

BERLIN: Sports car maker Porsche said Sunday it would become the first German auto giant to abandon the diesel engine, reacting to parent company Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal and resulting urban driving bans.
“There won’t be any Porsche diesels in the future,” CEO Oliver Blume told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
Instead, the company would concentrate on what he called its core strength, “powerful petrol, hybrid and, from 2019, purely electric vehicles.”
The Porsche chief conceded the step was a result of the three-year-old “dieselgate” scandal at auto giant Volkswagen, the group to which the luxury sports car brand belongs.
VW in 2015 admitted to US regulators to having installed so-called “defeat devices” in 11 million cars worldwide to dupe emissions tests.
It has so far paid out more than €27 billion in fines, vehicle buybacks, recalls and legal costs and remains mired in legal woes at home and abroad.
Diesel car sales have dropped sharply as several German cities have banned them to bring down air pollution — a trend that Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to discuss with car company chiefs in Berlin later Sunday.
Stuttgart-based Porsche in February stopped taking orders for diesel models, which it had sold for nearly a decade.
Blume said Porsche had “never developed and produced diesel engines,” having used Audi motors, yet the image of the brand had suffered.
“The diesel crisis has caused us a lot of trouble,” he said, months after Germany’s Federal Transport Authority ordered the recall of nearly 60,000 Porsche SUVs in Europe.
Blume promised that the company would keep servicing diesel models on the road now.
According to the paper, Porsche also faces claims of having manipulated engines to produce a more powerful sound with a technique that was deactivated during testing.
Blume acknowledged that German regulators had found irregularities in the 8-cylinder Cayenne EU5, affecting some 13,500 units.
Merkel, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and heads of German auto companies were due to meet in Berlin later Sunday to discuss steps to avoid more city driving bans.
The German government hopes to see one million fully electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2022, up from fewer than 100,000 at the start of this year.