US Supervision

Unpopular and Potentially Illegal

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Court proceedings in Germany could create a legal minefield if they restrict the power of US supervisors, who have the right to monitor companies under US law.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Daimler, Bilfinger and Siemens have been overseen by U.S. court-appointed monitors for violations of U.S. laws.
    • At VW, former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson is tasked with investigating the carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal.
    • A German court recently repealed an American court’s decision to fire German employees.
  • Audio

    Audio

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ENRON INDICTEMENTS
Larry Thompson will be facing a tough crowd. Source: Bloomberg

Volkswagen is nervously awaiting the arrival of Larry Thompson, a 71 year old former deputy attorney general who has been appointed to monitor the world’s largest carmaker.

As part of a plea deal that VW struck in January with US authorities in the aftermath of its emission cheating scandal, Mr. Thompson will oversee reforms and investigations at Volkswagen. The lawyer, who in the past investigated the bankruptcy of US utility Enron and former President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, is supposed to look into the origin of the fraud and is tasked, by the Americans, with preventing it from happening again.

VW isn’t the first German firm to make such a deal. Rival Daimler and engineering conglomerate Siemens used to have US-appointed watchdogs in the house. Construction firm Bilfinger, as well as Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank are currently under the oversight of monitors.

“When it comes to prosecution of offenses abroad, the companies prefer the US interference over trials in America,” said a lawyer who was part of several US investigations into German firms. After all, such a deal often saves them expensive court proceedings that could potentially interrupt their business in the United States.

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