Volkswagen AG was sued for 3.3 billion euros ($3.67 billion) over the cover-up of its polluting diesel engines, its biggest legal challenge in Germany to date after a wave of lawsuits in the U.S. centered on the scandal.
The case was filed Monday in Braunschweig on behalf of 278 institutional investors from around the world, lawyer Andreas Tilp said by telephone. The suit claims that VW failed to publish information about the emissions scandal in a timely manner, he said.
The case comes almost six months after Volkswagen admitted it installed software in its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions testing, a scandal that’s rippled through the global car industry. Sixty-five cases are pending in Braunschweig over the issue, the court said last week. The company also faces a multitude of lawsuits in the U.S., as well as criminal probes in various countries.
Because Volkswagen has refused to take part in settlement negotiations and won’t waive a statute of limitations defense, it was necessary to file the lawsuit, Tilp said.
Eric Felber, a spokesman for Wolfsburg-based VW, declined to comment on the lawsuit until the company had seen a copy of the complaint.
“There is deep value in VW, but the uncertainty around all the potential claims against the company makes it difficult to invest,” Sascha Gommel, an analyst at Commmerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said in a note to clients.
Tilp has represented investors in many German cases over capital-market disclosure issues. His firm represents investors suing Porsche SE for a combined 2.6 billion euros ($2.89 billion).
Among the plaintiffs in the new VW case are investors from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., the U.S. and Taiwan. These groups include 17 German investment management companies, as well as insurance companies and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds in the U.S., Tilp said.
Another 20 institutional investors seeking more than 1 billion euros ($1.11 billion) are in talks with the firm about an additional suit, Tilp said.
Tilp filed the first individual shareholder case against VW on Oct. 1. The lawyer has asked the court to open test-case proceedings. If the request is granted, all capital-market cases will be jointly heard in a special procedure before the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court in the German state of Lower Saxony.
By Karin Matussek