Trial begins into €9bn investor lawsuit against Volkswagen but not all claims will be considered, judge says
€9bn investor lawsuit against Volkswagen over the diesel emissions scandal has got under way in Germany but a judge has said only some of the 1,670 claims will be considered.
Shares in the German car manufacturer rose steadily throughout the morning as the trial, expected to last at least until the end of the month, began at the Braunschweig higher regional court.
Shareholders are seeking compensation amounting to €9.2bn (£8.2bn) over the diesel emissions scandal, which broke in September 2015.
Read more: Volkswagen pleads guilty to US charges in emissions scandal
The trial could act as a test case for a further 1,600 pending claims against the company in a number of different courts.
The shareholders claim that VW should have told investors about the firm's rigged emissions tests before it became public when the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation.
In the days that followed the company's shares lost 37 per cent of their value, costing investors billions.
But in his opening remarks, presiding judge Christian Jaede said, due to the statute of limitations, only some of the claims would be taken into account.
Jaede said that incidents involved in the claims stretched back to 2005, with claims before July 2012 being potentially invalid.
Volkswagen has admitted rigging engine control software to pass US emissions tests in a scandal that has already cost it €24.7bn in fines and penalties.
Read more: Volkswagen agrees to pay at least $1.2bn to US vehicle owners
Andreas Tilp, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: “VW should have told the market that they cheated and generated risk worth billions.
“We believe that VW should have told the market no later than June 2008 that they could not make the technology that they needed in the United States.”
Judge Jaede delivered another potential blow to the investors' case when he said it was not clear whether VW's decision – between 2005 and 2007 – to install the software was taken to keep investors in the dark.
Tilp said if the court did not accept that VW should have made public its inability to legally meet US emissions standards, then the case against the firm would be limited.
VW's lawyer Markus Pfueller said: “This case is mainly about whether Volkswagen complied with its disclosure obligations to shareholders and the capital markets.
“We are convinced that this is the case.”
In its court filing, VW said that because other carmakers had reached a settlement for emissions cheating without a notice of violation, and because it was in the process of reaching a settlement, it not did need to brief investors before September 20145.
The company denies breaching disclosure rules.