The former head of Volkswagen knew about Dieselgate, at least, two weeks before the automaker went public last year, according to a report Sunday in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag. The news weekly said that it had a letter in its possession, dated Sept. 4, 2015, in which an unnamed manager informed Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s former boss, of a “conversation on 03.9.2015 [European nomenclature – month.day.year] with the regulator CARB (California Air Resources Board), [in which] the defeat device was admitted. In a hearing a month later before the House of Representatives, Michael Horn, chief executive of Volkswagen, United States, told lawmakers the same thing.
Sunday’s story speculated that the information could have an impact in planned stockholder suits. The company, Bild am Sonntag speculated, should have made the information public as soon as it had become aware of the news. Stockholders are planning suits due to the catastrophic loss of value that followed the disclosure. According to stories at the time of the disclosure four months ago, Volkswagen’s value plunged by 17 percent, costing stockholders billions in value.
Winterkorn’s attorney could not be reached for comment. And, a spokesman for the automaker declined to comment due to the ongoing investigations.
Meantime, Bafin, a German financial watchdog, is probing Volkswagen’s actions. It is looking to see whether the automaker breached disclosure rules when it admitted to cheating on diesel emissions. The probe will probably take several months to complete. And, as Bafin conducts its inquiry, Volkswagen’s internal probe continues. VW hired the U.S. law firm Jones Day to conduct a thorough internal investigation of the Dieselgate scandal. The legal firm is looking at the breadth of Dieselgate including who knew about it, who ordered its development and who ordered installation of the cheating software. Volkswagen has announced it will disclose the results of the internal probe next month.
When the Dieselgate scandal broke last September, the company lost about 17 percent of its value or about 13 billion euros ($14.2 billion) in one day. The scandal has led to the dismissal of top managers, including Winterkorn. Emissions cheating will also likely cost the automaker billions by the time it winds down. Dieselgate has been called the worst scandal in the automaker’s almost 80-year history.
Reuters provided information for this story.