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IPE special report May 2018

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VW facing reports of pension fund abuse

GERMANY – The former Volkswagen managers at the centre of a sex and bribery scandal may have attempted to misappropriate funds from Volkswagen Pension Trust (VPT), the €1.5bn pension fund for the car giant, according to a German newspaper.

Citing an internal memo from the accountant KPMG, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that among other abuses, the managers may have tried to raid VPT for cash.

However, the newspaper said the amount of money which Volkswagen may have lost as a result of any abuses, namely €5m, was much lower than previously thought.

Former VPT chief executive Helmuth Schuster is one of 10 managers under investigation since the scandal broke in June. None have so far been indicted by the pubic prosecutor for Brunswick, which is near VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg.

The other managers, all of whom have either have left of have been fired, include Peter Hartz, VW’s former top executive for personnel, Klaus-Joachim Gebauer, another senior personnel executive and Klaus Volkert, who headed VW’s workers’ council.

The newspaper also said Gebauer was emerging as the central figure in the affair. It said Gebauer helped Schuster found several “dummy component firms” outside of Germany so that they both could personally profit from lucrative supply contracts with Volkswagen.

The Brunswick prosecutor is also looking into allegations that labour representatives at VW, in exchange for their support of management decisions, accepted bribes and other perks.

VPT had no comment on the Welt am Sonntag article.

At the end of July, VPT replaced Schuster with Josef-Fidelis Senn. VPT’s other board executive is Albrecht Möhle.

VPT, one of the first contractural trust arrangements set up by German multinationals, serves the carmaker’s 168,000 employees. Its €1.5bn in assets are derived from company pension plans and so-called “overtime accounts”.

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