BERLIN – Volkswagen AG was sued for €3.3 billion ($3.7 billion) over how the company informed markets about devices used to hide pollution in diesel engines, its biggest legal challenge in Germany to date after a wave of lawsuits in the U.S. 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 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. Seventy cases are pending in Braunschweig over losses on VW shares, seeking between €600 and €2 million plus the action filed Monday, the court said in a statement. 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 comment on the lawsuit until the company had seen a copy of the complaint.
VW stock declined €3.40, or 2.9 percent, to €112.20 at 1:15 p.m. in Frankfurt. The shares have fallen 16 percent this year.
“There is deep value in VW but the uncertainty around all the potential claims against the company make it difficult to invest,” Sascha Gommel, an analyst at Commmerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said in a note to clients.
The scandal was first broke by U.S. authorities on Sept. 18. VW reacted with a press release two days later and a formal market disclosure on Sept. 22.
In a response to other suits pending at the court, VW has argued that its reactions were timely and in line with rules. Before the scandal broke, VW’s advisers said the matter could be “contained by measures that were common in such cases,” and thus appeared to be neutral in regard to the company stock price, the company argued.
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.
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 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.