The trial to determine if Volkswagen AG executives disclosed critical information about the diesel scandal to investors in a timely manner has gotten underway.
Investors are seeking almost $10.4 billion, saying Volkswagen had not provided information they needed to decide what to do with their shares before the scandal became public.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen in September 2015 of manipulating diesel emissions, sending the shares sharply lower. The scandal also stranded billions of dollars in investment in diesel technology and shifted the entire industry’s trajectory away from diesel and toward battery electric vehicles.
The case opening Monday in front of the higher regional court in Braunschweig, not far from Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters, involves claims from investors that will serve as a model for further cases, according to German media reports. The first case involves claims of 4 billion euros from Deka Investments and other shareholders.
(VW diesel owners in settlement cruising up to deadline. Click Here for the story.)
Proceedings are being held in a convention hall due to the number of participants and high public interest.
Part of sprawling litigation against Volkswagen is being underwritten by a subsidiary of Elliot Management, a U.S. hedge fund that suffered major financial losses in 2008 after betting that the value of VW shares would drop. Instead VW shares rose and Paul Singer’s Elliot’s founder has accused VW of manipulating the stock, according to the New York Times.
The company says it met its duty to inform investors in time.
However, in a setback for investors, Presiding Judge Christian Jaede indicated that claims involving company actions before the middle of 2012 could be excluded. Attorneys for the investors had argued that company’s behavior as far back as June 2008 should be considered, arguing Volkswagen knew then that its diesel technology was flawed.
(Click Here for more about VW offering big deals on fixed diesel leftovers.)
Volkswagen’s lawyers argued that previous cases involving emission violations in North America and Europe had been settled with modest penalties. VW’s top management did not know it would face a sweeping violation notice that cost it billions and severely damaged the companies’ reputation.
Volkswagen has admitted rigging engine control software in the U.S. to turn down emissions controls when vehicles were not being tested. That way they passed certification tests but spewed up to 40 times the U.S. limit of harmful nitrous oxides during every day driving.
The company pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines and penalties. Two executives were jailed in the U.S. and the company’s former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was charged with wire fraud and conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act but cannot be extradited from Germany. A criminal investigation is still ongoing in Germany and Winterkorn also has been indicted in the U.S.
(To see why VW was penalized again for diesel gate scandal, Click Here.)
In all, the company has set aside $31.7 billion for fines, settlements, recalls and buy backs of diesel vehicles.