Investor bodies urge action against Volkswagen

German court pressed to appoint expert for inquiry into top managers’ role in scandal

VW is conducting an internal investigation into the emissions affair, after it emerged that up to 11 million cars had been fitted with so-called defeat devices that served to understate emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides in official tests. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

VW is conducting an internal investigation into the emissions affair, after it emerged that up to 11 million cars had been fitted with so-called defeat devices that served to understate emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides in official tests. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

 

Investor advisory bodies are planning to ask a German court to appoint an independent expert to lead an investigation into whether Volkswagen’s top managers and directors played any role in the diesel emissions scandal.

Deminor, a consulting firm representing 14 institutional investors that hold VW shares, is proposing to ask a Hanover judge to appoint an expert to determine whether VW senior managers and directors failed in their duties during the scandal.

Hermes Equity Ownership Services, which advises 20 VW institutional investors, also supports taking this issue to court.

DSW, the German shareholders’ association, is also planning to ask a court to appoint an expert.

Discussions are now under way about the possibility of combining the actions by Deminor, Hermes and DSW.

VW is conducting an internal investigation into the emissions affair, after it emerged that up to 11 million cars had been fitted with so-called defeat devices that served to understate emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides in official tests.

VW has also hired Jones Day, a US law firm, to conduct a separate investigation and report to the US Department of Justice, which in January sued the carmaker.

Investigation

Deminor’s plan to go to court comes after it failed to secure enough support for a motion at the 14-hour meeting for a special investigation by an independent expert.

The motion was opposed by the Porsche and Piech families, VW’s controlling shareholders, plus the state of Lower Saxony and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, which are also big investors. Combined, they hold 90 per cent of VW’s voting shares.

However, Erik Bomans, a partner at Deminor, said that more than half of the shares held by free float investors and present at the VW meeting were cast for the firm’s motion.

“This is a strong signal to the management that the investors’ community wants nothing but the full truth about what went wrong at Volkswagen AG, ” he said.

- Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016