A U.S. law firm’s office in Germany is seeking to meet the management of Volkswagen by the end of March to begin negotiation of a settlement for German and European consumers affected by the automaker’s emissions scandal, the Wall Street Journal reported. Washington-based Hausfeld LLP reportedly sent a letter dated March 15 to Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller and Supervisory Board Chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch.
Chairman Michael Hausfeld and his firm’s German partner, Christopher Rother, reportedly requested the meeting “to begin a process” of dialogue with Volkswagen as regulators probe the company’s scandal that came to light in September after scientists at a University of West Virginia laboratory tested several of the company’s diesel vehicles and found that their carbon emissions were as much as 40 times the legal limit in the U.S.
The request to negotiate a settlement in such civil damages cases is initiated as the last resort before a lawsuit is filed, the Journal reported. Volkswagen currently faces around 70 individual civil suits in Germany from investors seeking damages after the company admitted that it was able to cheat on emissions tests by employing the defeat device that indicated the vehicles’ emissions as far lower than they actually were.
Volkswagen has so far declined any request for a negotiated settlement in civil damages cases in Germany.
“The best way for Volkswagen to resolve the issue with its German customers would be to engage in negotiations on a compensation scheme as suggested by Ken Feinberg for U.S. customers. Against that background, we offer to Volkswagen to initiate such a dialogue in order to avoid litigation,” Rother told the Journal.
The law firm’s letter for negotiation comes just a day after almost 300 institutional investors in Volkswagen filed for damages of $3.61 billion (3.256 billion euro) for what they see as breaches of its capital markets duty in the emissions scandal.
“Due to the fact that — according to our information and experience — Volkswagen AG persistently denies any settlement negotiations and also refuses to waive the statute of limitation defense until now, it was necessary to file this first multi-billion euro lawsuit,” lawyer Andreas Tilp of law firm TISAB, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
About 11 million cars have been globally affected by the emissions scandal, of which 8.5 million cars are in Europe. Volkswagen is facing separate investigations in the U.S., Germany and France in addition to the company’s internal probe.
As Volkswagen struggles with the consequences of the emissions scandal, the European carmakers' association, ACEA, said the company is missing out on the booming European car market, the Associated Press reported.
February sales in Europe reportedly increased by 14.3 percent, but Volkswagen’s sales rose just 4.4 percent. The carmaker’s sales, which were boosted by Audi and Skoda, grew by 8 percent.