German judges give VW mixed messages

German judges give VW mixed messages

Volkswagen received mixed messages as German judges signalled their initial thoughts on a 9-billion euro (US$10.4-billion) lawsuit by thousands of investors who claim the carmaker misinformed them on the diesel scandal.

On the first day of hearings yesterday (Monday), the court indicated that some of the claims may be too old to be considered. But in a less positive opening gambit, judges said they must review whether VW should have disclosed the scandal as early as May 2014.

Investors who claim VW should have disclosed that it used a so-called defeat device as early as 2007 or until July 2012 may not have a case because of time-bar rules and because they can’t prove the required recklessness of the non-disclosure, Presiding Judge Christian Jaede said after opening the hearing on Monday.

But the court may conclude that VW should have told markets about a U.S. study it learned about in May 2014 that showed its cars emitted way too much pollution, Jaede said. The study was done by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

VW would then have to prove its executives hadn’t acted in a “grossly negligent” way by not disclosing it at the time, he said. The judges will also look at whether VW was allowed to hold the information back to avoid hurting talks with the authorities.

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