VW Refuses to Share Probe Findings With Angry Investors

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
vw refuses to share probe findings with angry investors

Volkswagen AG announced at its annual shareholders meeting this week that it will not be publishing the findings of an external investigation into its diesel emissions scandal conducted by the Jones Day law firm. The reason for VW’s secrecy is due to an underlying fear among management that the information held in the report would lead to further lawsuits and fines.

VW Chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch addressed the thousands of shareholders by first thanking the U.S. legal team for its hard work and then explaining there was no way in hell anyone outside of the company would benefit from its findings — tossing any promised transparency out the window.

“I’m aware that some of you wish for greater transparency. Often the publishing of a full report is demanded,” he said. “To be clear: there is no written final report from Jones Day, nor will there be. I ask for your understanding that for legal reasons Volkswagen is prevented from publishing any such report.”

While many might assume Volkswagen is hiding more unsavory secrets, there’s also the possibility that is not the case. Arrangements with the U.S. government prohibit the automaker from straying from conclusions established by the Department of Justice. As the U.S. has already laid massive fines, there is a chance VW doesn’t want to publish anything from Jones Day which might refute the pre-established narrative and invite further penalties.

Regardless, shareholders are outraged at the decision to keep the report from them. VW promised to share the findings of the Jones Day investigation with investors back in 2015, when news of the scandal broke. Instead, the company has stated the findings were more-or-less incorporated into the “statement of facts” issued by the Department Justice and that it had no intention of publishing anything comprehensive.

According to Reuters, shareholder rights advocate and German corporate governance expert Christian Strenger had demanded that management “put all their cards on the table,” citing a legal back door that allows VW the option of publishing any new information.

“Under the plea agreement, the U.S. has a right to see any findings and agree to them in advance,” he said at the meeting. “Your reference to the statement of facts agreed in the U.S. is completely insufficient and almost insulting to all those who are interested in complete clarification of responsibilities.”

Hermes Investment Management representative Hans-Christoph Hirt said investors need more from Volkswagen, complaining that a statement of facts is not equal to using the complete report. “That is the only way to win back lost confidence,” he said.

Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller attempted to ease some distress by announcing his full support of Larry Thompson, the former U.S. deputy attorney general picked by the Justice Department to provide corporate oversight at VW for the next three years.

Join the conversation
  • Sirwired Sirwired on May 11, 2017

    I'm pretty sure VW is using the DoJ as a "cover" for not releasing a pathetic whitewash. If they added a disclaimer to the effect of "If anything this report contradicts the DoJ findings agreed to by VW on XX/YY/ZZ, the DoJ findings should be considered the true and correct word on the matter." Of course, that would show how many such contradictions there are, none of them favorable to VW or Jones Day.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on May 11, 2017

    Sounds like Baylor University and the Pepper Hamilton "report", after the sexual assault scandal involving their football program. Baylor has been about as transparent as VW. And the Baylor scandal has dragged on for as long.

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