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Dutch asset managers join class action against Volkswagen

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Three of the Netherlands’ largest pension managers are likely to participate in a class action lawsuit against German car maker Volkswagen related to the 2015 emissions scandal.

In addition to the €470bn Dutch asset manager APG and the €27bn ABN Amro Pensioenfonds, the €215bn Dutch asset manager PGGM is also likely to join the lawsuit, according to Pensioen Pro, IPE’s Dutch sister publication.

Pensioen Pro reported that it was not yet clear whether metal industry schemes PMT and PME had also joined this action, or had opted for another case against the German car manufacturer.

Last week, the giant litigation case – in which approximately 3,500 investors claim damages as a result of their stake in Volkswagen (VW) dropping by one-third – started at the court of justice in Braunschweig.

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Both APG and the ABN Amro pension fund have confirmed that they are among the participants of the class action, which also targets VW’s subsidiary Porsche.

In their annual reports PMT and PME both mentioned “legal procedures because of the emissions scandal of diesel cars”.

Other Dutch pension funds and providers declined to state whether they were among the litigants.

’However, it is likely that PGGM has also joined the class action. In its most recent sustainability report, it cited a “German legal action against VW and Porsche because of ‘dieselgate’”.

Andreas Tilp, of German law firm Tilp Litigation, also declined to provide further details to Pensioen Pro. In 2016 he told Dutch financial newspaper FD that he was representing 30 large Dutch players.

MN, the €130bn asset manager for both metal schemes, declined to confirm whether it would take part in the litigation case that started last week.

Despite the emissions scandal, the large Dutch civil service scheme ABP, healthcare pension fund PFZW and PME have remained invested in VW, keeping both equity and bond holdings.

The €72bn PMT has since divested its entire stake in the car maker, however. A spokeswoman explained that the decision was not related to the current class action, but to the fact that VW no longer matched PMT’s investment criteria.

She said a screening had revealed that it was among the 10% of companies with the lowest ESG score.

Approximately 1,000 institutional investors are claiming billions of euros in damages in total from Volkswagen.

In 2016, Norway’s €853bn sovereign wealth fund filed a suit claiming roughly €2bn in damages. It was represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and backed by US pension fund CalSTRS among others.

The €21bn Greater Manchester Pension Fund, the UK’s largest local authority scheme, joined a class action suit financed by Bentham in 2016, while in the same year the German state pension funds of Bavaria and Hesse filed suits claiming losses of €700,000 and €3.9m, respectively.

The German court of justice, which will only examine the liability question, is to reconvene at the end of November.

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