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CalPERS at forefront of institutional investor lawsuit against VW

Nearly 300 international institutional investors have filed claims totalling €3.3bn against Volkswagen in the German courts, following last year’s emissions test scandal.

The 278 claimants include investors from Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

US investors include CalPERS, while Australia, Canada, Japan and Taiwan are also represented.

A number of German investment management companies and insurance companies are also among the claimants.

The lawsuit was filed last Monday in the Regional Court in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Lower Saxony, also the home state of VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg.

It alleges several breaches of duty on the capital markets committed by VW between 6 June 2008 and 18 September 2015.

The car manufacturer had used ‘defeat device’ software on thousands of diesel vehicles sold in the US, enabling them to violate emissions standards.

Around €25bn was wiped off the company’s market capitalisation on German exchanges in two days following revelations of the fraud by US environmental agencies, with the share price plummeting from €160 to €100.

The lawsuit claims VW failed to publish information about the emissions scandal in a timely manner.

Andreas Tilp, managing partner at law firm TISAB, which filed the action, said: “According to our information and experience, Volkswagen persistently refuses any settlement negotiations and has also until now refused to waive the statute of limitation defence, so it has been necessary to file this first multi-billion-euro lawsuit.”

TISAB has also filed a motion to initiate so-called KapMuG proceedings against VW.

This process provides a group model to allow court rulings won by individual investors to set damages for other investors in the same position.

Germany, unlike the US, has no opt-out class action system.

The lawsuit is being financed by an international consortium consisting of litigation funder Claims Funding Europe and US law firms DRRT, Grant & Eisenhofer and Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check.

Tilp said that, because significant material claims threaten to lapse on 19 September 2016, under the respective statute of limitation period, the consortium of funders will finance further lawsuits for institutional entities, represented by TISAB, against Volkswagen.

“For this purpose, a further 20 institutional investors with damage claims totalling over €1bn have approached us,” he said.

A TISAB spokesman told IPE: “We are convinced we have a very good pan-European capital markets case and are going to recover losses for our investors.”

TISAB’s sister law firm TILP has already successfully conducted model case proceedings against Deutsche Telekom and Hypo Real Estate Holding.

Meanwhile, a Dutch settlement foundation has been set up to pursue legal action against VW in the Amsterdam Court of Appeals, while a number of lawsuits have been filed against the car manufacturer in the US.

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