Audi’s longtime boss, Rupert Stadler, has been sitting in jail for the past three months as prosecutors investigate his role in the emissions-cheating scandal Dieselgate. He was denied bail as there were fears he would try to influence witnesses in the ongoing investigation.
In spite of his imprisonment, it took until Tuesday for Audi parent Volkswagen to relieve him of his post and kick him off the VW board. The official reason: He can no longer perform his duties and needs time to prepare his defense.
That was true when Mr. Stadler was first taken into custody, but it took until now for the VW group to reach an agreement on his severance pay. The Porsche and Piëch families who control VW wanted to treat him generously: Besides being a top manager in the group, he was a family confidant. The state of Lower Saxony, however, which is also a major shareholder, wanted to throw Mr. Stadler out and make an example of him.
VW compromises on severance
Tuesday’s decision struck a compromise. Most of the severance he is due, some €7 million ($8 million), will be paid to Mr. Stadler – but only if he is acquitted in any criminal trial resulting from the Dieselgate investigation, industry sources told Handelsblatt.
Until then, he will receive €1.5 million for a non-competition agreement, meaning Mr. Stadler agrees not to start a similar position with Audi competitors, which runs through 2019. He will also receive almost another €1 million in compensation awarded in 2015 but is due to be paid in 2019. Since he is leaving the company before his contract expires, that payment will be made now.
If Mr. Stadler is indicted and convicted, VW will probably sue for damages and will have the withheld severance as collateral.
Sources say Mr. Stadler is not under suspicion for having directly taken part in the diesel emissions fraud but for being complicit because he knew about it. Mr. Stadler has repeatedly denied the accusations. His lawyers declined to comment on Tuesday’s settlement.
Martin Murphy covers the auto industry for Handelsblatt. René Bender is a member of the investigative team. Darrell Delamaide adapted this story into English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com