VW demands damages from former executives linked to emissions scandal

By Andrew McCathie and Jan Petermann, dpa
Wolfsburg, Germany (dpa) – Volkswagen is demanding damages from two of its former top executives as a result of the diesel scandal that engulfed Europe’s biggest car-making group about six years ago.

Germany-based VW said on Friday that, following a multi-year review, it would file a damages claim against former company chief, Martin Winterkorn and Rupert Stadler, ex-head of the group’s luxury Audi offshoot “for breaches of due diligence under stock corporation law.”

The group has, however, not disclosed the size of the claims against the executives.

The company said it had not found any violations in the case of other VW board members. The company’s total legal bill resulting from the diesel scandal has so far added up to more than 30 billion euros (35.3 billion dollars).

The German law firm Gleiss Lutz this week presented a final report to the VW supervisory board on its probe into the implications of the scandal.

The affair followed the company’s 2015 admission that emissions readings had been manipulated on its diesel-powered vehicles to make it seem that cars would be more environmentally friendly in real-world conditions than they actually were.

The investigation sought to establish whether Winterkorn, Stadler and possibly other executives at the time could be accused of negligent management and control failures before the affair came to light.

Winterkorn has insisted that he was not aware of any wrongdoing.

Following the company’s Friday announcement, Winterkorn’s lawyers said said the former VW chief executive had “done everything necessary and omitted nothing that would have led to avoiding or minimizing the damage caused.”

One key finding of the report concerned a crisis conference in July 2015.

The report said Winterkorn had failed at the meeting to “immediately and comprehensively clarify the background to the use of inadmissible software functions in 2.0-liter TDI diesel engines sold in the North American market from 2009 to 2015.”

Furthermore, he had not ensured “that questions posed by the US authorities in this context were answered truthfully and completely without delay.”

With regard to the 58-year-old Stadler’s case, the group said that, from the end of September 2016, he had failed to ensure that larger diesel engines developed by Audi would be “investigated with regard to unauthorized software functions.”

The engines were also installed in VW passenger cars and vehicles produced by the group luxury sports car offshoot, Porsche.

At the Audi and Porsche subsidiaries, claims for damages are also reportedly under consideration against ex-managers Ulrich Hackenberg, Stefan Knirsch and Wolfgang Hatz.

A claim has already been launched in the case of former VW development chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser, the company said.

The 73-year-old Winterkorn had resigned from his post as VW chief executive about five and a half years ago, shortly after the emissions scandal had been uncovered by the US authorities.

Winterkorn is also facing trial for his alleged role in the emissions scandal.

His trial along with four other executives for alleged fraud is due to begin in the central German city of Braunschweig in September.

Stadler is also facing charges in a Munich court on claims of his possible joint responsibility for the manipulated emissions readings.


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