Rupert Stadler and Martin Winterkorn are under fire.
Volkswagen Group would like nothing better than to put the whole Dieselgate debacle behind it. It's one of the biggest scandals in automotive history that began in September of 2015 following a study by the California Air Resources Board in 2014. In January 2017, Volkswagen Group pleaded guilty in a criminal case over emission standards violations. The emissions cheating software used affected 11 million cars worldwide, 500,000 of those in the United States including the popular Golf and Passat TDI models. The scandal has subsequently cost Volkswagen Group around $38 billion in penalties, fines, financial settlements, and vehicle buyback costs. And now Reuters reports that the German automaker is seeking to claim damages from former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and former Audi boss Rupert Stadler.
Both Winterkorn and Stadler have denied responsibility for the sordid affair. Winterkorn resigned as CEO in September of 2015, just a week after the scandal broke. Stadler held on for three more years and was under criminal investigation before Volkswagen Group terminated his contract as Audi CEO.
The damages being sought against Winterkorn and Stadler are due to Volkswagen Group claiming the two failed in their duty of care under stock corporation law. According to Reuters, a note to Volkswagen Group Staff explained that Winterkorn and Stadler "accomplished great things," and their "impressive achievements in their professional careers still stand. However, as successful as their work was, there were aspects that Prof. Winterkorn and Mr. Stadler as Group Board members did not monitor carefully enough."
In a statement, Winterkorn's lawyers rejected the Supervisory Board's accusations, and Stadler's lawyers made no comment. The allegations come following Volkswagen Group's investigation led by the law firm Gleiss Lutz and following the examination of 1.6 million files and over 1,550 interviews.
According to Reuters, Volkswagen is seeking damages against its former bosses as an attempt to "draw a line under its biggest-ever crisis." However, if that's the main goal, then creating headlines with what will likely be a protracted legal case seems self-defeating. Even if Volkswagen Group won the cases, it's also unlikely that the defendants will be able to cut the company a check for even a tiny portion of the $38 billion the scandal has cost.