Volkswagen Lawsuits

Demanding $9 Billion in Damages

Das Landgericht in Braunschweig (Niedersachsen), aufgenommen am 09.09.2015. Foto: Julian Stratenschulte [ Rechtehinweis: (c) dpa ]
Courting trouble in Braunschweig, the regional court closest to Wolfsburg where Volkswagen's headquarters are based.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Claims by German investors for compensation from Volkswagen may drive the cost of Dieselgate far higher.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Volkswagen admitted last September it had manipulated around 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, sending its shares down more than 30 percent.
    • So far, VW has set aside €18 billion to cover the costs of Dieselgate but it is unclear what will be the final cost of the emissions-rigging scandal.
    • Volkswagen agreed a $15.3-billion settlement with U.S. car owners and environmental regulators in June, but is still entangled in hundreds of other lawsuits.
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    Audio

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Investors this week filed masses of new lawsuits against Volkswagen over the carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal, which first emerged a year ago.

Fearful of a deadline that lapsed on Monday, around 750 new lawsuits were filed at the regional court of Braunschweig, close to VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, more than doubling the total amount of complaints to around 1,400, the court said in a statement.

The total sum demanded rose to €8.2 billion, or $9.1 billion. That’s double the amount that was claimed by early August, according to the court’s latest figures released Wednesday.

While not all of these are likely to be granted, the claims from institutional and retail investors could further raise VW’s bill to settle the affair, which has pushed Europe’s largest carmaker into crisis.

These claims come in addition to fines set by authorities, claims from car owners for compensation and investors suing VW in the United States and other countries.

So far, Volkswagen has set aside €18 billion to cover legal costs but as claims continue to be filed, this sum may prove insufficient.

It agreed a $15.3-billion settlement with U.S. car owners and environmental regulators in June, but is still entangled in hundreds of other lawsuits.

The carmaker admitted mid-September last year that it had installed cheating software in about 11 million diesel cars worldwide. The cars emitted more nitrogen oxide than laws allow. The scandal wiped away more than 30 percent of VW’s market value in the days and weeks after the revelations.

On Wednesday, the preference stock, which is included in the German blue-chip DAX index, was still trading 26.7 percent lower than the levels seen before Dieselgate became known. In Wednesday’s trading, the shares briefly dipped after news of the claims emerged that morning.

VW is in the midst of settling with authorities in several countries, including on measures to recall, repair and compensate car owners in the United States. But as investigations continue in the U.S. and in Ireland, among others, new revelations are complicating those agreements.

The lawsuits filed on Wednesday largely came from private investors. Several institutional investors also filed suits worth €2 billion, all filed by the same law firm.

Further bundled claims came in from institutional investors, including a set from 60 investors worth €30 million, 160 investors worth €1.5 billion, 565 investors worth €550 million and an investment group worth €45 million.

These are in addition to claims from German institutional investors including Bavarian pension funds, involving a sum of €700,000; the Baden-Würrtemberg pension funds, worth €1.1 million, and the Hesse special fund reserves, worth €4 million.

For the court itself, it’s a massive undertaking. The court on Monday issued a press release stating that it had prepared correspondingly, by adding personnel and storage space, in order to process the claims. This is likely to take four weeks, the court said. The 1,400 Volkswagen claims make up about 50 percent of what the total civil claims the court usually handles each year.

The latest claims would significantly raise the financial damage of Dieselgate, although the actual sum to be paid by Volkswagen remains unclear.

 

Allison Williams is deputy editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global Edition. Gilbert Kreijger of Handelsblatt Global Edition contributed to this story. To contact the author: williams@handelsblatt.com

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