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Investors sue VW in Germany for more than 3 bn euros
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) March 15, 2016


Ex-VW employee's suit says automaker hid diesel scam
Washington (AFP) March 15, 2016 - A former Volkswagen employee has filed a whistleblower lawsuit accusing the German automaker's US unit of deleting data to cover up emissions cheating on its diesel cars.

Daniel Donovan said he was fired by Volkswagen Group of America after reporting within the company the intentional destruction of evidence potentially related to its use of illegal software to trick emissions tests.

Donovan, who was responsible for personal injury and product liability cases in the information technology department, said in his Michigan lawsuit last week that he was fired in December because the company believed he was about to report the destruction of evidence to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other authorities investigating the emissions cheating.

Donovan, who joined the company in 2008, said that his firing violated legal protections accorded whistleblowers who object to and refuse to participate in illegal activities.

He is seeking damages and interest; the amounts were not specified in the suit.

Contacted by AFP, Volkswagen's US unit denied his dismissed was for the reason claimed.

"The circumstances of Mr. Donovan's departure were unrelated to the diesel emissions issue. We believe his claim of wrongful termination is without merit," it said in a statement.

The "Dieselgate" scandal emerged in mid-September, when the EPA charged Volkswagen with violations of the Clean Air Act for using software in its diesel-engine cars that reduced emissions to a legal limit under testing but switched off afterward, allowing the cars to spew nitrogen oxides up to 40 times the standard.

The scandal has spread, with VW admitting 11 million of its vehicles worldwide have been installed with the so-called "defeat device" that circumvents standards tests.

Volkswagen is facing regulatory fines in a number of countries and a slew of lawsuits, notably in the United States and Germany, from angry car owners, as well as from shareholders seeking damages for the massive loss in the value of their shares since September.

A group of 278 institutional investors from Germany and abroad is suing embattled auto giant Volkswagen for more than 3.0 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in damages over the emissions-cheating scandal, their lawyers and the court said Tuesday.

The lawyers, TISAB Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH, said in a statement that they had filed "the first multi-billion-euro lawsuit in Germany against Volkswagen" at a court in Brunswick, northern Germany.

They accuse the carmaker of repeatedly violating capital market disclosure rules between June 6, 2008 and September 18, 2015.

"The 278 plaintiffs are exclusively institutional investors from Germany and all over the world, including Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and Taiwan," the statement said.

Among them were 17 German investment funds and one of the biggest US pension funds, CalPERS.

A spokeswoman for the Brunswick court confirmed that a combined suit for 3.255 billion euros worth of damages had been lodged.

VW declined to comment.

The suit was filed in Brunswick because VW is based in the nearby town of Wolfsburg.

VW, which until recently entertained ambitions of becoming the world's biggest carmaker, has been plunged into its deepest-ever crisis by revelations last September that it installed emissions-cheating software into 11 million diesel engines worldwide.

On top of still unquantifiable regulatory fines in a range of countries, VW is facing a slew of legal suits, notably in the US and Germany, from angry car owners, as well as from shareholders seeking damages for the massive loss in the value of their shares since September.

The shareholders say the carmaker knew about the irregularities long before the scandal broke and should have informed shareholders much earlier because they must have known it would affect the share price.

But VW has repeatedly reiterated its firm belief that its management board fulfilled its disclosure obligation under German capital markets law.

It argues that none of its top bosses could have known of the full extent of the scandal until it broke in September 2015.

On the Frankfurt stock exchange on Tuesday, VW shares were showing a loss of 1.9 percent in a slightly softer market.

maj-spm/kjm

VOLKSWAGEN


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