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VW to pursue former CEO Winterkorn and Audi boss Stadler for dieselgate damages

​Volkswagen Group’s former chairman Martin Winterkorn

The Volkswagen Group has confirmed that it intends to pursue a dieselgate damages case against former chief executive Martin Winterkorn and Audi CEO Rupert Stadler.

The German car manufacturing giant said that it had taken the decision following the completion of an internal investigation into the circumstances of the scandal, which it described as “by far the most comprehensive and complex investigation carried out in a company in German economic history”.

The Volkswagen Group said that its case against Winterkorn and Stadler would be made in relation to breaches of the duty of care under stock corporation law.

VW’s supervisory board has alleged that Winterkorn breached his duties of care as former chairman of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Group by failing to “comprehensively and promptly clarify the circumstances behind the use of unlawful software functions in two-litre TDI diesel engines sold in the North American market between 2009 and 2015”.

It further alleged that Winterkorn also failed to ensure that the questions asked by the US authorities in this context were answered truthfully, completely and without delay.

The Supervisory Board also alleged that Stadler - sacked by VW following his 2018 arrest - breached his duties of care by failing to ensure that three-litre and 4.2-litre TDI diesel engines developed by Audi and installed in Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles sold in the EU were investigated with regard to unlawful software functions.

Following examination of the VW Group investigation findings, the Supervisory Boards of Audi and Porsche, the former members of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Prof Ulrich Hackenberg and Dr Stefan Knirsch, as well as the former member of the Board of Management of Porsche, Wolfgang Hatz, are also being accused of breaches of the duty of care under stock corporation law.

The Financial Times reported that Volkswagen Group’s move to seek redress from its most senior manager at the time of the saga comes as it works to finally draw a line under a scandal that has cost it more than $30bn (£21.8bn) in fines.

It said that, while Stadler is on trial in Munich but Winterkorn’s case has been delayed several times because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

A statement issued to the FT by Winterkorn’s lawyers said he rejected the allegations and that he was “convinced that in the short period of time in the late summer of 2015 that is still under discussion here, he did everything necessary and omitted nothing that would have…prevented or minimised the damage caused”.

Stadler did not immediately respond to the FT’s requests for comment.

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