A court in Stuttgart has ordered Volkswagen to supply two documents that suggest its former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, knew about the diesel emissions scandal more than a year before it became public in September 2015.
Two documents show that Mr. Winterkorn was informed in May 2014 about the cheating devices fitted into diesel cars, which artificially lowered toxic emissions during lab tests and increased them on the road. The letters, seen by Handelsblatt, were sent by the quality control chief and explicitly list emissions as an issue to be addressed.
VW was unwilling to comment on the documents. The new documents could be disastrous for the company’s current legal stance, namely that its top managers knew nothing of the case. Volkswagen was unwilling to say what the revelations could mean for liability claims against Mr. Winterkorn. Some experts say that the VW supervisory board should hold Mr. Winterkorn and his fellow board members accountable, otherwise the board itself could be liable.
Much hangs in the balance for the company over the question of who knew what when. Mr. Winterkorn has insisted that he didn’t learn of the cheating until early September, while the full board has said it could only assess the financial impact after California’s Environmental Protection Agency revealed the manipulation on September 18, 2015. Four days later the company issued a note to shareholders.