Brussels To Berlin: Drop Your VW-Gesetz, Right Now
Brussels just ratcheted up the thumbscrews they placed on Berlin: “Either drop that VW-Gesetz now, or we’ll see you in Europe’s High Court. You’ve go two months.” Automobilwoche (sub) has the story in German. In case you don’t know: The VW-Gesetz (VW-law) was written to give the state of Lower Saxony veto power. Lower Saxony holds 20.1 percent of Volkswagen. According to German law, a minority shareholder must have 25 percent to exercise veto power. Lower Saxony didn’t want to spend the extra money for the extra shares. A law was passed instead. For a long time, this law was seen as a weapon to ward off foreign raiders and other riff-raff: Who wants to take over a company they can’t boss around? Now, the law bothers two parties:
One, Brussels, because they don’t seem to understand why Volkswagen needs more protection than any other company. Two, Porsche, because they can own as many shares as they want, they still can’t subsume Volkswagen in Porsche’s books as long as Lower Saxony gives thumbs down. Which explains the fact that Porsche isn’t in a hurry to buy more shares than necessary as long as the VW-law is in effect. The European High Court will most likely look quite unkindly on the obstructionist German government: The court already had ruled that the law is illegal. Germany changed it a bit. But left the part in that gives a 20 percent shareholder veto power. The court is miffed. It may hand down fines up to €100K for each day the German government continues flipping its finger at the court.
The ultimatum sprouted from Brussels only hours after a German court declared the retreaded VW-law legal. That court is in Hannover, which happens to be the capital of Lower Saxony. “No expert expected the Hanover court to rule against Volkswagen, Lower Saxony, the federal government and parliament,” Bloomberg quotes Walter Bayer, a corporate law professor at the University of Jena, Germany. “We think this decision will be corrected on appeal. At the least, the European Court of Justice will most likely say this violates EU principles.”
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