The Securities and Exchange Commission has officially charged Volkswagen, two of its subsidiaries and its former CEO Martin Winterkorn with fraud.
According to the complaint, VW issued more than $13 billion in bonds and asset-backed securities in the U.S. between April 2014 to May 2015, at a time when senior executives already knew about the 500,000+ vehicles that exceeded legal emissions limits.
The SEC says that VW made false and misleading statements to investors and underwriters about vehicle quality, environmental compliance and its own financial standing and that by concealing the emissions scheme, the German automaker benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars while issuing the securities at more attractive rates.
“Issuers availing themselves of American capital markets must provide investors with accurate and complete information,” stated Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the Division of Enforcement. “As we allege, Volkswagen hid its decade-long emissions scheme while it was selling billions of dollars of its bonds to investors at inflated prices.”
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and charges Volkswagen AG, subsidiaries Volkswagen Group of America Finance, LLC and VW Credit Inc and Winterkorn with “violating the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws”. The SEC is now seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties, while also seeking an officer and director bar against Winterkorn.
VW fights back
After having already paid more than $30 billion in overall penalties as a result of the “dieselgate” scandal, the German automaker is now fighting these claims, saying that they are “legally and factually flawed”, and that they will be contested vigorously, reports Autonews.
“The SEC has brought an unprecedented complaint over securities sold only to sophisticated investors who were not harmed and received all payments of interest and principal in full and on time.”
The statement goes on to say that the SEC “does not charge that any person involved in the bond issuance knew that Volkswagen diesel vehicles did not comply with U.S. emissions rules when these securities were sold,” but repeats claims about Winterkorn “who played no part in the sales.”
A lawyer for the former VW CEO could not be reached early today.